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This briefing argues the case that completed Iranian nuclearisation, and specifically military nuclearisation, can be a stabilising influence on the Middle East though current Iranian pursuit of nuclear technology is destabilising for the region. Our position is that Iran’s programme is an attempt to acquire a deterrent rather than build a primarily offensive capability. Part I seeks to establish a theoretical and practical foundation for this position. In Part II, the distinction is made between Iranian pursuit of nuclear technology and Iranian attainment of nuclear technology. As will be explained, both phases have their own effects on regional stability and the potential for further proliferation in the region; Iranian pursuit of nuclear capability is destabilising, while Iranian attainment has the potential to be a stabilising, if proliferative force in the region.

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Part I: Nuclear calculation

Today, more than ever before, the state of Israel must include appropriate preemption options in its overall defense strategy.‘ (Quote from a report issued in 2004 by Project Daniel, an advisory group to the Israeli prime minister)

Deterrence theory, as related in detail by Kenneth Waltz, tells us that aggressive action against a nuclear state fails a cost-benefit analysis because the costs of such action can be so disproportionate and devastating to the aggressor. It is this concept of cost-benefit perception that we believe forms the crux of Iran’s reasoning in nuclear acquisition. Once established, the intention is that an Iranian nuclear deterrent secures the state in a regional, and to some extent global context, while allowing it to assert its influence throughout the region. This is not to say that a nuclear Iran will attempt regional expansionism, i.e. that it may start to try and influence its neighbours and become the regional hegemon.

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