Tag Archives: nuclear weapons

Interest vs. Identity: Why Do States Become Nuclear Powers?

-A case study on Pakistan


Photo by Sameer Akhtari on Unsplash

S. Rania Mohiuddin is a 2nd Year International Relations BA student at King’s College London. She writes about why different countries nuclearize themselves by specifically focusing on the case study of Pakistan. 

The International Committee of the Red Cross calls nuclear weapons ‘the most terrifying weapon ever invented’ and seeks their complete elimination.[1] The negative effects of nuclear weapons go beyond the loss of lives, and extend into societal, ecological, and environmental problems, and even food shortages.[2] Taking these, and the fact that nuclear weapons have not been used against another state since 1945, into consideration, it can be difficult to understand why states choose to become nuclear powers.

What cannot be overlooked, however, is that nuclear weapons are the most powerful and destructive weapons a modern state can possess.[3] Furthermore, their advantages are not limited to their capacity as weapons. As Sagan argues, “Nuclear weapons, like other weapons, are more than tools of […] security; they are political objects of considerable importance in domestic debates and internal bureaucratic struggles and can also serve as international normative symbols”.[4]

This article will will compare the identity and interest based causes Pakistan’s identity and interest based motivators for nuclear proliferation. The information provided will be analyzed from two differing perspectives- realist theory (interest), and constructivism (identity).

Setting the Scene: Pakistan 1972

1971 can be stated as one of the most influential years in the development of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program. Prior to the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971, India and Pakistan had engaged in two conventional wars, in 1948 and 1965, respectively. What set 1971 apart, was that the previous wars had not ended with a victory either side could claim. Pakistan remained ‘undefeated’. [5] In stark contrast, the war of 1971 resulted in a comprehensive defeat for Pakistan, further solidified with the loss of Bangladesh in East Pakistan.[6]

This defeat hastened the fall of military General Yahya Khan from power, who was replaced by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.[7] Bhutto had been an advocate for nuclear power as early as 1965, and had deep set opinions on protecting Pakistan’s territorial integrity. It was under Bhutto’s directive that the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC) was instructed to build a nuclear device within three years, and began uranium enrichment in 1972. [8] By 1987, in an interview to Time, Pakistani President Zia ul-Haq declared “Pakistan has the capability of building the Bomb. You can write today that Pakistan can build a bomb whenever it wishes. Once you have acquired the technology, which Pakistan has, you can do whatever you like”.[9]


In the meantime, two of Pakistan’s geographic neighbours, India and China, had already launched nuclear weapons programs. China started its nuclear weapons program in 1954, and successfully conducted its first test in 1964- eight years before Pakistan started the process of uranium enrichment.[10] Pakistan’s other- perhaps more threatening- neighbour, India, had established the Indian Atomic Energy Commission (IAEC) in1948 (compared to PAEC- 1956), and had started allocating serious time into nuclear power in 1954. Smiling Buddha, India’s first peaceful nuclear explosion, took place in 1974- three years after Pakistan’s defeat in the 1971 War, and 24 years before Pakistan’s first nuclear test, Chagai-I. [11] It is worth noting that both of Pakistan’s nuclear neighbours have a ‘no-first strike’ policy, indicating that they will only use nuclear weapons in an instance that requires a retaliation, not an initial attack. This differs from Pakistan’s ‘first-strike’ policy- wherein in a preferred scenario, Pakistan would be the first to launch a nuclear attack. [12]

A realist analysis of the question:

Interest can be viewed as a key factor in policy making. Morgenthau defines national interest as ‘pursuit of power, which is to be used to secure material aims, protect social and physical quality of life, and promote specific ideological or normative goals’.[13] This definition can be interpreted to mean that national interest reflects ideals that will ensure the security, and thus, survival of the state. When asked why states acquire nuclear weapons, classical realist theory’s focus on power relations and security- and their reflections in national interest, and thus policy, offer valid explanations. As Morgenthau puts it, ‘The national interest of a peace-loving nation can only be defined in terms of national security’.[14]

Possession of nuclear weapons can be perceived as a matter of international prestige.  A state seeking to establish itself may wish to develop nuclear weapons ‘to gain membership to the most exclusive international club of nuclear states’. [15] This can be used to explain why Pakistan sought nuclear power- to avoid being overshadowed in the regional politics between India and China, both of whom had nuclear power.  Another deduction that can be made on this basis could be that considering APJ Abdul Kalam, head of India’s defence research department, stated ‘India has got the size and weight to do it’ regarding India’s 1998 tests, after the Pakistani defeat in 1971, Pakistan could be said to be seeking security through prestige.

The second of these causes lies in the concept of deterrence– ‘strategy under which one power uses the threat of reprisal effectively to preclude an attack from an adversary power’.[16] In order to explain Pakistan’s growing nuclear weapons programme, Sadia Tasleem and Toby Dalton argue, ‘For Pakistani officials and scholars, increasing and diversifying Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal is not seen as a policy choice, but rather a compulsion to maintain an effective deterrent vis-à-vis India’- it’s nuclear power wielding long term adversary, and neighbour.[17] Through deterrence, the possibility of a nuclear attack between the two states is reduced, bringing stability to regional, and global politics.[18]

The final realist cause for Pakistan to have developed nuclear weapons can be found in the realist security dilemma: ‘what one does to enhance one’s own security causes reactions that, in the end can make one less secure’.[19] Essentially, a state’s attempt to defend itself can be interpreted as offensive to its neighbours. This results in both states stockpiling weapons in order to ensure their own security. Sagan explains how the security dilemma can also be applied in Pakistan’s case as “After the Indian [test explosions], the nascent Pakistani weapons program had to move forward according to the realist view: facing a recently hostile neighbour with both nuclear weapons and conventional military superiority, it was inevitable that the government in Islamabad would seek to produce a nuclear weapon as quickly as possible.”[20]

Overall, it can be seen that the three causes: prestige, deterrence, and the security dilemma, all have their foundations in a state’s desire to protect itself from outside powers.

A constructivist analysis of the question:

States need ways in which they distinguish themselves from other states, and they do so through national identity.[21] This national identity is constructed on the basis of shared commonalities such as language, religion, ethnicity, culture, and historical experience.[22] Constructivist theorists would argue that in essence, national identity is not a ‘given’, but rather, is formulated over time.

To understand the origins of Pakistan’s national identity, it is essential to study the origins of the state of Pakistan. Pakistan was created on August 14th, 1947, though the partitioning of colonial India on the basis of religious majorities in geographic regions. [23] The biggest involuntary migration of populations across international borders took place between India and Pakistan, as Hindus, Muslims, and Sikhs, all fled for their security to the newly created states.[24] Ahmed explains that ‘the movement for Pakistan was essentially negative in its orientation: it had come into being in opposition to a perceived fear that in a united India the Hindu majority would be a permanent political majority thus reducing Muslims to the position of second-class citizens.’.[25] The friction between India and Pakistan never fully subsided, with both states going to war in 1948, 1965, and again in 1970.

It is safe to say that Pakistan’s national identity has been constructed through history, religion, and politics, to be positioned against India. Hymans argues that ‘an oppositional nationalist identity combines a great antagonism toward an external enemy of the nation and an exaltation of the actual or potential strength of the nation. This type of identity produces a mix of fear and pride—an explosive psychological cocktail.’[26] This oppositional nationalist perception of India that Pakistan has can serve as an explanation for why Pakistan would want to become a nuclear state- especially after Pakistan’s defeat in 1971. In support of the view that nuclearization was the Pakistani national identity’s response to India’s position as a nuclear state, Narang points out that the Pakistani nuclear program was constructed specifically with India in mind.[27]

“If India builds the bomb, we will eat grass or leaves—even go hungry—but we will get one of our own.”[28] – Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, 1965

As can be seen in Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s speech in 1965, India’s nuclear capacity played a crucial role in driving Pakistan’s nuclear program. Constructivist theorists would claim that it was Pakistani national identity that helped shape policies of politicians like Bhutto. Hymans puts it as ‘the key independent variable […] about decisions to go nuclear is the leader’s national identity conception’.[29]

Securitization theories, which question social and power relationships, their origins, and their conceptual shifts, are in line with constructivist claims that factors driving policy making are constructed.[30] This differs starkly from the realist perspective that national interests are predetermined (security). Securitization focuses on the construction of objects of security, and the transformation of security dilemmas. The perception of what constitutes a security concern also effects the state strategy, including nuclearization. Keeping this in mind, it is possible to argue that the developments in Pakistan’s perception of regional politics from a perspective that is tinted by national identity was integral in Pakistan acquisition of nuclear weapons. It was national identity that gave issues to be securitized a platform to do so, national identity that facilitated securitization, and national identity that was used to strengthen debates on securitization.[31]

Thus, a constructivist approach which emphasises the malleable nature of identity, and the influence it has in policy making, provides a variety of reasons for Pakistan’s nuclearization. Pakistan’s national identity, and the way it was constructed through historical events and cultural and religious divisions, was a key motivator both for the politicians that initiated Pakistan’s nuclear program, and the policy actions that were taken.

Why is Realism not enough?

While realism’s approach to the causes of nuclearization remain valid and applicable, alone, it is not sufficient to cover the specificity and intricacy of the Pakistani nuclear program.

Earlier in this essay, it was pointed out that on a chronological basis, Pakistan was quite behind its two nuclear neighbours in acquiring nuclear weapons. One could then argue that if the motive behind Pakistan’s nuclearization was in the realist security dilemma, and the notion that it felt threatened by the possibility of being encircled by nuclear powers, it would have been expected that Pakistan start stockpiling weapons as soon as possible. The threat had been there for several years- what it took to mobilize Pakistan in terms of nuclear power, was the humiliation they faced as a result of the 1971 war, and the renewed emphasis on Pakistani national identity being fundamentally opposed to India. This in itself is evidence that the realist security dilemma is not enough to understand Pakistan’s motives for nuclearization.

Aside from the debate over whether or not acquisition of nuclear power is counterproductive to building prestige, given that possession of nuclear weapons could be perceived as an act of hostility, and lack of faith in peace, and the international liberal order, there is another reason why prestige is not an all-encompassing reason for Pakistani nuclearization.[32] Pakistan had been following a policy of nuclear ambiguity-‘[it] had neither renounced nor acquired nuclear weapons for overt weaponization- which it abandoned in May 1998, through a series of nuclear testing that took place between May 28-30, 1998.[33] It is worth noting that if Pakistan had become a nuclear power for a matter of prestige, as realists claim, there would be no point of keeping the program ambiguous. On the contrary, it would be expected for a country to announce its nuclear capabilities as soon as possible. With Pakistan, this was not the case, as Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif stated, “”No matter we are recognized as a nuclear weapons power or not, we are a nuclear power.”[34]

Thus, it can be seen that realist assumptions alone are not adequate to explain why Pakistan would want to become a nuclear state. The argument surrounding the security dilemma loses its validity, as the time difference between the launching of India and China’s nuclear programs varies starkly with that of Pakistan. This allows for an understanding that constructivist claims built around the concept of identity play a more consequential role in Pakistan becoming a nuclear state.

What does this mean for Pakistan as a Nuclear State?

Samina Ahmed argues that ‘Pakistan’s relations with India, will continue to play a major role in determining Islamabad’s nuclear course’, emphasizing that Pakistan’s national identity will continue to be a driving force for nuclear policy.[35] Tasleem and Dalton further support these claims through saying that Pakistan and its perhaps ‘fastest growing [nuclear program] in the world’ are results of Pakistan’s efforts to position itself in an advantageous position compared to India.[36]

A recent manifestation of the nuclear conflict between Pakistan, and its long-time enemy, India, took place in February 2019, in the aftermath of the Pulwama attack that occurred on February 14, 2019 in Kashmir- a region over which both India and Pakistan have territorial claims over. [37] In response to the escalating tensions, Pakistan initiated preparations for war with India, through readying its military, and hospitals.[38] Though tensions have deescalated since, especially after Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan’s ‘peace gesture’[39], the case demonstrated to the international community how nuclear policy, driven by national identity, can have a significant impact on regional security and stability. [40]


Realist explanations for nuclearization that prioritize national security- which realists claim, is the ultimate national interest- were explored. The three reasons that were provided: deterrence, the security dilemma, and the prestige that comes with having joined the ‘nuclear states’, were introduced, with supporting context dependent reasons as to why Pakistan might have chosen to nuclearize. Following this, identity based reasons for nuclearization that originate from Constructivist theory were studied. It was shown that Pakistan has a distinct national identity that was shaped in the 1945 creation of the state, historical events that took place, and societal divisions within the Indian and Pakistani population. It was this specific national identity, which influenced processes like securitization, and influential individuals like Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, thus paving the way for Pakistani nuclearization. After having evaluated both sides of the argument, it was explained why the ‘realist reasons’ were not found to be sufficient in Pakistan’s case specifically. Overall, this essay has compared identity and interest’s roles in determining Pakistan’s nuclearization, and reached the conclusion that identity had a heavier sway.


Sannia Abdullah “Nuclear Ethics? Why Pakistan Has Not Used Nuclear Weapons…Yet,” The Washington Quarterly, 41:4, (2018)  157-173, DOI: 10.1080/0163660X.2018.1558681

Agatha S.Y. Wong-Frazer, The Political Utility of Nuclear Weapons. Expectations and Experience (Lanham: University Press of America, 1980), p. 336.

Ahmed, Ishtiaq. “PAKISTAN’S NATIONAL IDENTITY.” International Review of Modern Sociology 34, no. 1 (2008): 47-59. http://www.jstor.org/stable/41421657.

Ahmed, Samina. “Pakistan’s Nuclear Weapons Program: Turning Points and Nuclear Choices.” International Security 23, no. 4 (1999): 178-204. http://www.jstor.org/stable/2539298

Akhtar,Rabia  “Making of the Seventh NWS: Historiography of the Beginning of the Nuclear Disorder in South Asia” The International History Review, 40:5, (2018) 1115-1133, DOI: 10.1080/07075332.2017.1404482

Alexansdrov, Maxym. “The Concept of State Identity in International Relations: A Theoretical Analys.” 2003. Accessed March 12, 2019. http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=

BRANDS, H. W. “The Idea of the National Interest.” Diplomatic History 23, no. 2 (1999): 239-61. http://www.jstor.org/stable/24913740.

Cimbala, Stephen J. “Nuclear Proliferation in the Twenty-First Century: Realism, Rationality, or Uncertainty?” Strategic Studies Quarterly 11, no. 1 (2017): 129-46. http://www.jstor.org/stable/26271593.

Diskaya, Ali. “Towards a critical securitization theory” e-ir, Aberyswyth University, 2012 https://www.e-ir.info/2013/02/01/towards-a-critical-securitization-theory-the-copenhagen-and-aberystwyth-schools-of-security-studies/#_ftn34

Hymans, Jacques E. C. “Leaders’ National Identity Conceptions and Nuclear Choices.” Chapter. In The Psychology of Nuclear Proliferation: Identity, Emotions and Foreign Policy, 16–46. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006. doi:10.1017/CBO9780511491412.003.

Jutila,Matti “Securitization, history, and identity: some conceptual clarifications and examples from politics of Finnish war history”, Nationalities Papers, 43:6, (2015)  927-943, DOI: 10.1080/00905992.2015.1065402

Lamy, Steven L., John Scott Masker, John Baylis, Steve Smith, and Patricia Owens. Introduction to Global Politics. New York: Oxford University Press, 2019. p.119-143

Lockie, Alex. “Pakistan Readies Military, Hospitals for War with Its Nuclear Rival India after Pulwama Terror Attack.” Business Insider. February 22, 2019. Accessed March 20, 2019. https://www.businessinsider.com/pakistan-readies-military-hospitals-for-war-nuclear-rival-india-kashmir-pulwama-2019-2?r=US&IR=T.

Masih, Niha. “Meet the Pilot Who May Have Averted an India-Pakistan War.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 1 Mar. 2019, www.washingtonpost.com/world/2019/03/01/meet-pilot-may-have-averted-an-india-pakistan-war/?utm_term=.79b8d98df908.

Morgenthau, Hans J. “The Primacy of the National Interest.” The American Scholar 18, no. 2 (1949): 207-12. http://www.jstor.org/stable/41205156.

Narang, Vipin. “Pakistan.” In Nuclear Strategy in the Modern Era: Regional Powers and International Conflict, 55-93. Princeton University Press, 2014. http://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt6wq00j.7.

O’Neill, Barry “Nuclear Weapons and National Prestige,” Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers 1560, Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University. 2006. https://ideas.repec.org/p/cwl/cwldpp/1560.html

Posen, Barry R. “The Security Dilemma and Ethnic Conflict.” Mhamci.yolasite, 12 Mar. 2019, http://www.mhamchi.yolasite.com/resources/Barry%20Posen%20Ethnic%20Conflict%20and%20Security%20Dilemma.pdf.

Reiss, Mitchell. Bridled Ambition: Why Countries Constrain Their Nuclear Capabilities. New York: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1995.

Sagan, Scott D. “Why Do States Build Nuclear Weapons?: Three Models in Search of a Bomb.” International Security 21, no. 3 (1996): 54-86. doi:10.2307/2539273.

Smith, David A. 2016. Theories of Nuclear Proliferation: Why Do States Seek Nuclear Weapons? Inquiries Journal 8 (08), http://www.inquiriesjournal.com/a?id=1434

Tasleem, Sadia & Toby Dalton “Nuclear Emulation: Pakistan’s Nuclear Trajectory” The Washington Quarterly, 41:4, (2018) 135-155, DOI: 10.1080/0163660X.2018.1558662

Zagare, Frank “Classical deterrence theory: A critical assessment”, International Interactions, 21:4, 365-387, 1996 DOI: 10.1080/03050629608434873

[1] International Committee of the Red Cross, 2018


[2] Ibid 2018

[3] Smith 2006

[4] Sagan 1996-97, 55

[5] Narang 2014, 56

[6] Narang 2014, 56

[7] Narang 2014, 57

[8] Nuclear Threat Initiative – Pakistan 2016


[9] Reiss 1995, 215

[10] Nuclear Threat Initiative- China 2015


[11] Atomic Heritage Foundation 2018


[12] Nuclear Threat Initiative – Pakistan 2016


[13] Lamy et al. 2019, 121

[14]Morgenthau in Dalby 1995, 175

[15] Hymans 2006, 43

[16] Encyclopaedia Brittanica


[17] Tasleem and Dalton 2018, 135

[18] Zagare 1996, 366

[19] Posen 2006, 28

[20] Sagan 1996-97, 59

[21] Ahmed 2008, 47

[22] Ibid, 58

[23] Ahmed 2008, 46

[24] Ibid, 46

[25] Ibid, 47

[26] Hymans 2002, 139

[27] Narang 2014, 57

[28] Bhutto in Narang 2014, 56

[29] Hymans 2002, 140

[30] Diskaya 2013

[31] Jutila 2015, 927

[32] Brand 1999, 253

[33] Ahmed 1999, 178

[34] Sharif in Ahmed 1999, 178

[35] Ahmed 1999, 179

[36] Tasleem and Dalton 2018, 136

[37] Lockie 2019

[38] Ibid 2019

[39] Pakistan returned Indian Air Force Pilot Abhinandan Varthaman, whom was captured by the Pakistani military during an aerial ‘dogfight’ between India and Pakistan, to India on March 1, 2019.

[40] Masih 2019

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The Iranian Irritation:​ President Trump’s menace to the Iran Deal


Clément Briens is a second-year undergraduate student in War Studies & History with an interest in Cybersecurity and Nuclear Proliferation.

On October 15th, Donald Trump must decide in front of US Congress whether to certify that Iran is complying with the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) signed in 2015. After more than 20 months of negotiations, P5+1 countries (the Security Council Permanent 5 members+ Germany) signed a deal with Iran limiting their nuclear weapons development program in exchange for tightened economic sanctions. The JCPOA became integrated into US Law with the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act passed in May 2015.

This act asks for re-certification from the US President every 90 days that Iran is, in fact, complying with the deal; if the POTUS refuses to certify, then a period of 60 days opens up in which US Congress may decide to reintroduce sanctions against Iran, hence formally marking an exit of the United States from the JCPOA. President Trump has recently made headlines by threatening to decertify the deal during the next hearing this October, which might lead to a collapse of the deal with Iran.

Donald Trump has always strongly opposed this deal and has been extremely vocal about his opinions regarding the regime, especially during his presidential campaign. However, President Trump’s first UN speech in September was particularly brutal and was of unprecedented violence: he described the Iran deal as being “one of the worst and most one-sided transactions the United States has ever entered into.” He even qualified Iran of being a “corrupt dictatorship” hiding as a democracy. “Frankly, that deal is an embarrassment to the United States, and I don’t think you’ve heard the last of it”, he warns.

A potential exit of the United States from the deal would be disastrous for all parties. This includes US firms seeking to conduct business in Iran, America’s allies, as well as provoking irreversible damage to an already strained relationship between Iran and the United States.

It is also foolish to believe that it is the JCPOA’s aim to completely stop Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons; our best hope is to slow down Iran’s program while we repair relations with what used to be a crucial regional ally. As declared by, Robert Einhorn, a US academic who was partly behind the American negotiation of the deal, “opponents have had to scale back their criticism, in large part because the JCPOA, at least so far, has delivered on its principal goal—blocking Iran’s path to nuclear weapons for an extended period of time.” Therefore it is important for us to review what this deal’s objectives as they were designed by policy-makers are before threatening to cut it off and measure the benefits and shortcomings before assessing whether President Trump should jump the trigger of decertification.

Can we really stop Iran from gaining nuclear weapons?

Signed in Vienna on July 14th 2015, the Joint Comprehensive Plan Of Action marked an agreement between P5 countries and Iran that it would limit its nuclear enrichment activities (that would eventually lead them to gaining access to nuclear weaponry) in exchange for the lifting of various embargos and economic sanctions put in place by the Security Council since 2006. Here are the simplified terms of the agreement[1]:

  • Arms embargo until at least until 2020. Ballistic missile technology embargo until at least 2023.
  • Limitation of Iran’s stockpile of low-enriched uranium to 300kg until 2030.
  • Redesigning of the heavy-water Arak Reactor so it does not produce weapons-grade plutonium as waste. No building of further heavy-water reactors until 2030.
  • Inspections and security measures until 2040.
  • End of economic sanctions on Iranian assets and end of embargo (UN Resolution 1737)
  • Redesigning of the heavy-water Arak Reactor so it does not produce weapons-grade plutonium as waste. No building of further heavy-water reactors until 2030

So what sense can we make of these terms? Do they stand to actually stop Iran from developing nuclear devices in the near future?

Firstly, the most obvious and the most alarming to some is how these agreements are limited in time, with quantitative limits over-enrichment and ballistic weapons research that last until approximately 2030, effectively delaying Iran’s “breakout time” instead of avoiding it. Adversaries of the deal, such as President Netanyahu, have called these limits a “sunset clause”. Former Israeli ambassador to the US Michel Oren declared in July that Israel and the US would cooperate “to ensure that the sun never sets on the sunset clause until there is a different Iranian regime.”[2]

Secondly, one may wonder how it would be possible to enforce these measures. While redesigning a reactor might be possible to be publicly proven by Iran, what stops them from building secret, undetectable reactors or nuclear enrichment facilities under mountains in the Iranian countryside?

This is where the IAEA[3] comes in. This international agency is a key factor in the enforcement of this deal, as they are the ones that provide the reports concerning Iran’s compliance with the deal. Their main framework for these reports is the Additional Protocol (AP) a treaty signed by Iran in 2003 in supplement to the NPT[4] which allows IAEA inspectors to visit any nuclear facilities in a very short notice (as to avoid hiding evidence of nuclear enrichment) and most importantly is legally binding for the signatory. [5]

Therefore, trust is an inherent factor in Iran’s compliance with security measures. This may explain the West’s approach at the Vienna summit: if the West successfully negotiates a delay in Iran’s nuclear programme, then it buys time for the West to rebuild economic and diplomatic ties with Iran, in order to ultimately persuade Iran that it does not need nuclear weapons, to begin with. Real change comes within. Being coercive with a key regional power is not the solution to achieve nonproliferation.

Upholding the agreement is a divisive question even in the POTUS’ camp. Both Rex Tillerson, Trump’s Secretary of State, and General James Mattis, his Secretary of Defence, are both rumoured to defend the deal. Mattis, in particular, has been very vocal about his support of his deal, despite his beliefs that it can be reinforced. “Iran is not in material breach of the agreement, and I do believe the agreement to date has delayed the development of a nuclear capability by Iran,” Mattis claimed in front of a Senate hearing.[6]

So is the Iran deal really one-sided?

To many observers, this deal stood out as being mutually beneficial, as Iranian compliance allowed for peace of mind for Western leaders regarding Iran’s nuclear activities as well as dropping economic sanctions which effectively opened Iranian markets to foreign investment. Boeing is poised to make an estimated $16.6bn from a first deal made in December 2016 for more than 80 planes, with a project for a second deal worth $3bn in the works.[7] European rivals Airbus have also exploited this golden opportunity and have passed a similar deal worth $20bn. Of course, what President Trump will omit from his speech on October 15th is the 18,000 jobs that are said to be created from this deal for American workers in Boeing plants all over the country.[8] His 2016 campaign was, of course, heavy with slogans of “bringing jobs back to America”.

Many private actors in other domains have also benefitted from this opening, such as rail and road infrastructure, potentially $25bn and $30bn markets respectively. Iran has also benefitted from this economic opening: they have claimed to have made “more than $100bn” from the end of economic sanctions.[9]

One look at the Iranian economy tells us why: oil represents more than 80% of the country’s public revenues.[10] The Iranian economy is volatile, as any country whose economy depends on market prices for natural resources- this is why they would also benefit from a situation of trust and stability, as it is easier to find clients in a time of crisis.


Iran is not only valuable as a potential geopolitical ally, but also a potential customer and economic partner. Trust is not only the key to diplomatically persuade them from developing nuclear weapons. It is also the key to the stability of their economy. An economy that, if it finds the right diversification under the right leadership, can transform Iran into a global power, and a powerful ally to the United States.

President Trump is right in that the international community should be uncompromising concerning Iran’s violations of human rights and sponsoring of terrorist groups such as Hamas, which are issues that should not be ignored and need to be solved. America’s commitment to its alliance with Israel is also crucial in the President’s decision. However, threatening to decertify the only sensible solution to Iran’s nuclear ambitions should not be on the United States’ agenda, and is of an unprecedented magnitude of violence concerning his speech.

Unfortunately, the West will not be able to stop Iran from getting the bomb short of invading them. The economic and political benefits to the JCPOA far outweigh any sanctions, as well as having the potential to make Iran reconsider their bright future as one without nuclear weapons. Trust is once again a key factor in both economic relations but also in the ability for the IAEA to enforce its security measures, hence allowing the international community to verify Iran’s compliance. Trump’s comments about Iran being a “rogue state” was detrimental to this effort and clearly shows his intent in decertifying- one may only hope that the remainder of the P5 powers will remain sensible and attempt to uphold the agreement despite America’s divided leadership.



[1] https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2015/03/31/world/middleeast/simple-guide-nuclear-talks-iran-us.html

[2] http://www.jpost.com/Israel-News/Politics-And-Diplomacy/Israeli-MK-calls-on-US-to-scrap-sunset-clauses-of-Iran-deal-500097

[3] International Atomic Energy Agency

[4] Non Proliferation Treaty

[5] https://www.iaea.org/topics/additional-protocol

[6] http://edition.cnn.com/2017/10/03/politics/mattis-iran-nuclear-deal-national-security/index.html

[7] http://nypost.com/2017/06/10/iranian-airline-finalizes-deal-to-purchase-60-boeing-planes/

[8] https://www.seattletimes.com/business/boeing-co-says-it-signed-new-3b-deal-with-iranian-airline/

[9] http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2016/feb/3/iran-claims-100-billion-windfall-from-sanctions-re/

[10] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/iran/8996819/Iran-threatens-new-war-games-in-the-oil-lanes-of-the-Gulf.html



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No More Hibakusha

by Andreas Tsamados, a greek second year student reading BA International Relations at the War Studies Department of King’s College London. Andreas wrote this piece whilst interning at The Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs – from this year he is to be their representative at King’s College.

Seventy years ago, on the 6th of august at 8:15, the U.S. dropped the world’s first atomic bomb on the city of Hiroshima. Annihilation followed the explosion as the blast, along with nuclear radiation took the lives of an estimated 140,000 civilians. Three days later, the city of Nagasaki became the second victim of the atomic bomb, suffering the losses of another 74.000 people. As the world commemorates these events, the Hibakusha (survivors of the atomic bomb) remember and share, as Kenzaburo Oe wrote “the only gift that the world has received from these bombings…the wisdom of their survivors”. A wisdom that can be translated as follows: Never again should a population endure such inhuman destruction.

August 6, 1945 700 m from the hypocenter Yuko Nakamura (13 at time of bombing, 70 at time of drawing) When washing my face with a bloody nose at a well outside, large drops of rain began splashing down. ‘America sprinkled petroleum!’‘Maybe they’re trying to annihilate us by setting fire on the mountains.’ Our faces stiff with fear, all of us ran into air raid shelters. The rain, which had been mixed with pitch black sand, stained our bloody outer garments and bandages with black dots. It was later revealed that this black rain was a dangerous rain containing radioactivity.

August 6, 1945
700 m from the hypocenter
Yuko Nakamura (13 at time of bombing, 70 at time of drawing)
When washing my face with a bloody nose at a well outside, large drops of rain began splashing down. ‘America sprinkled petroleum!’‘Maybe they’re trying to annihilate us by setting fire on the mountains.’ Our faces stiff with fear, all of us ran into air raid shelters. The rain, which had been mixed with pitch black sand, stained our bloody outer garments and bandages with black dots. It was later revealed that this black rain was a dangerous rain containing radioactivity.

Only four years after the bombings, on the 29th of August 1949 the world abandoned its hopes of never seeing such tremendous destructive power released yet again. Indeed, this date marks the Soviet Union’s first nuclear test, code-named “RDS-1” and the start of a new era: the era of nuclear power, in which the human race attained the intelligence necessary to destroy itself, but not the moral maturity to avoid seeking and using it as a weapon. Whether one believes that nuclear weapons can be used to deter wars or mitigate seemingly intractable problems will be irrelevant in the logic of the following paragraphs. Waltz’s laissez-faire attitude regarding nuclear proliferation or Mearsheimer’s idea of selectiveness encompass most of the arguments advocating the necessity of existence of these weapons, yet they cast aside the very real possibility of “accidents” and “irrational actions”.

Journalist Eric Schlosser’s book “Command and Control: Nuclear Weapons, the Damascus Accident, and the Illusion of Safety.” depicts numerous “close calls” that have filled the past 70 years and dangerously brought the world near nuclear war. Many of these accidents could have been described just as it was done by Kennedy’s adviser Arthur Schlesinger, regarding the Cuban missile crisis, as the most dangerous moment in history. The Black Brant scare in January 1995 is very representative of these and is proof of the continuing threat posed by nuclear arms regardless if the world finds itself in a bipolar or multipolar state. The Black Brant XII missile launched – in order to study the aurora borealis – from Norway streaked its way near Russian airspace and was mistook for a U.S. Navy submarine-launched Trident missile. As a result, fearing a high altitude nuclear attack that could blind Russian radars, Russian nuclear forces were put on high alert, and the Cheget, the nuclear weapons command suitcase was given to Russian president Boris Yeltsin. He had a mere five minutes to decide whether or not to launch a retaliatory nuclear strike.

General Lee Butler, the former commander in chief of the Strategic Air Command – which controls nuclear weapons and strategy – has described our survival up to that time as “some combination of skill, luck, and divine intervention, and I suspect the latter in greatest proportion.”. Surely, after general Butler’s condemnation of the Single Integrated Operational Plan (SIOP) and worldwide automated response systems twenty year ago have now been remodeled. However, basic problems in the nuclear arms administration persist in 2015 as the decision to destroy the world is ultimately still a decision left to the president, for must of the countries, and in a very limited amount of time. Current systems are not perfect, and the standards set worldwide for the preservation or movement of nuclear bombs are not necessarily met, leaving a scary amount of room to data and human error.

Ultimately, there are inherent problems with having nuclear weapons, mainly being that they are handled by fragile beings, affected by a mind-numbing compression from imminent threat and subject to blinding emotions. Adding to that, areas rooted in regional instability, historical vindictiveness, and suppressed national pride, it is indeed hard to conceive that the right decision will always be made by the people in charge. Events similar to the 1995 incidents are bound to occur, their denouement however might not be as fortunate. In addition, as the number of countries possessing nuclear armament increases we can only assume that the probability of accidents occurring will too. These simple facts constitute, in my opinion, a sufficient basis for the worldwide abolition of nuclear weapons. This distant dream can be attained; it only takes everyone agreeing to do it. Political realities and national interests around the globe do collide in some part with this conclusion, however, the necessary sacrifice in order to disarm nuclear weapons is insignificant in comparison to the one the world would have to make in the instance of a nuclear war. Technology can not be reverted, loosing the capacity of making nuclear weapons is impossible, but bombs can definitely be disarmed and we have a responsibility to do it.


Schlosser, E. (2013) Command and Control: Nuclear Weapons, the Damascus Accident, and the Illusion of Safety. Penguin Press.

Chomsky, N. (2014) As Hiroshima Day dawns, why are we still tempting nuclear fate?

For more on The Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs visit http://britishpugwash.org/what-is-pugwash/

General Butler Lee’s review. [Online] Available from: http://chomsky.info/interviews/20140405.htm

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