Deterrence Misapplied

Challenges in Containing a Nuclear Iran

June 02, 2010

Report

More on:

Iran

Nonproliferation, Arms Control, and Disarmament

Overview

Given the nature and structure of its government, is it possible to contain an Iran with nuclear weapons? In this discussion paper, sponsored by the Carnegie Corporation of New York, Frederick W. Kagan explores the applicability of deterrence—from a historic and theoretical perspective—to the Iranian regime. Kagan concludes that for numerous structural and strategic reasons, it is impossible to assess with any confidence that the Islamic Republic with nuclear weapons could be contained or deterred.

Note: Contributors were not asked their views about the possibility that Iran may develop nuclear weapons nor about the most effective U.S. policies to avoid that eventuality. Rather, they were told to assume that despite U.S. efforts, Iran had developed nuclear weapons, and they were asked to help assess U.S. options at that point.