Masters Thesis

Predicting Iran's nuclear policy: insights from contemporary realism

Proliferation of nuclear weapons is currently one of the most critical issues facing international relations. The region where this is currently of greatest concern is the Middle East. The Islamic Republic of Iran is an emerging regional power in the Middle East and has had an advanced nuclear weapons program. Iran's nuclear threat was supposed to be resolved with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), however the two main signatories, the US and Iran, have pulled out. Understanding the behavior of Iran and the situation with Iran's nuclear program is therefore of critical importance, which this thesis addresses through a review of contemporary international relations theory. Iran's behavior is clearly a pragmatic and survival based approach in reaction to Iran's environment, best explained by the offensive realism theory of John Mearsheimer in The Tragedy of Great Power Politics. This is proven by analyzing and comparing the behavior of Iran with the behavior of other states in a similar situation to Iran, within the framework of offensive realism. A case study of nuclear-armed states and other states in the region that have attempted to obtain nuclear weapons is used to review the variables that indicate which direction a rational state will take in the context of nuclear proliferation. It is determined that it is logical for Iran to pursue a nuclear deterrent, and this outcome should be expected and prepared for.