Jeffrey LewisIran's Bomb

After an e-mail exchange, reader JP sends along an interview that Yossi Melman of Ha’aretz conducted with Shahram Chubin (left) of the Geneva Center for Security Policy.

Chubin makes the case that Iran’s nuclear policy remains inchoate, loosely organized around a general consensus that Iran should have at least the option to go nuclear—something Mohamed ElBaradei alluded to in his discussion of ‘latent’ deterrents.

“Iran prefers first and foremost,” Cubin says, “to work towards what is defined as a ‘nuclear option’—attaining all the required materials and technology, which will enable it, if it wishes to do so, to reach the stage of producing nuclear weapons within a very short time.”

Writing with the Wilson Center’s Robert Litwak (“Debating Iran’s Nuclear Aspirations,” The Washington Quarterly, Autumn 2003), Chubin argues that loose goal reflects the lack of internal debate in Iran. Chubin makes a very sophisticated process argument for negotiating with Iran, arguing that forcing Iran to engage with the international community forces it to engage with itself on the issue:

The important point is that international pressure is forcing the regime to confront choices about its hidden weapons program. Does it continue to argue the energy rationale? In that case, how can it rationalize certain purchases and activities, such as the uranium-enrichment plant? Should the regime avoid signing the Additional Protocol? Does it sign and hope to continue its illegal weapons program undiscovered? International pressure is also forcing the regime to confront a more restless Majlis and press, seeking clearer answers about the program.


Debating Iran’s nuclear energy program on strictly economic grounds would take the issue out of the grasp of a small group of regime hard-liners who have basically made policy in secret, framing the issue thus far as one of Iran’s sovereign right to advanced technology being thwarted by a hostile United States. Informing the public and allowing Iranians, including members of parliament, to reach their own judgment on the merits of pursuing a nuclear program for power generation purposes would mark a significant shift.