[a REALISTIC VIEW ON IRAN] INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS AND GLOBAL POLITICS. UNIVERSITY OF OTTAWA
Globalization is the most commonly used word to describe the increasing interconnectedness between nations. In this modern era, it is almost impossible not to be affected by a global issue in some way or another. For example, the strengthening of airport security and the increased scrutiny was felt by all air travellers after the attacks of 9/11. There are many different theories that scholars adhere to in order to make sense of these issues such as liberalism, Marxism, or constructivism but “realism has been the dominant theory of world politics since the beginning of academic International Relations” (Baylis & Smith, 2008, p.95) which falls under the positivist umbrella. To test the validity and applicability of realism, this paper will analyze Iran’s nuclear program through the lens of a realist to understand why there has been so much tension surrounding their nuclear advancements. Of course, there are many different variations of realism but for the purpose of this paper, a ‘unified realism’ will be used which is explained more in detail later. Ultimately, if realism can reasonably identify and mutually relate some of the key concepts that are found in this global issue, then it will be considered a success.
Much like realism, Iran’s nuclear program has a long and distinct history. The Wikipedia page alone regarding Iran’s nuclear history is over 50 pages long with no less than 400 citations; it is quite extensive to say the least. The history extends back to the 1950s after a U.S. government-aided coup d’etat forced the democratically-elected Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh out of office, bringing Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi to power (Deluce, 2003). With the help and protection of the United States, Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi’s ran a dictatorship-monarchy with strong allegiance to the Americans. The Peace for Atoms program initiated by former U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower is what helped Iran actually construct their first nuclear facility in 1967 but it would not have been possible without the overthrown government. Iran then signed and ratified the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), thus becoming subject to verification by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
Iran revolted against the Shah in 1979 due to his intimate partnership with the United States (Del Giudice, 2008). The leader of the revolution became head of state and promptly informed the IAEA that Iran was to restart nuclear operations; this time without aid or permission from the United States. It took 30 years but ultimately, after a long and tumultuous process, Iran finally became a “nuclear-state” on February 9th, 2010 (Philp, 2010). Iran announced that it was enriching at well over 20% but had the capacity to produce at 80%, the amount needed to produce weapons of mass destruction. This was cause for concern for all nations as Iran’s relative and absolute power had been increased.
Realists believe power is fundamental in International Relations as it manifests itself in all three core elements of realism: statism, survival, and self-help (Baylis & Smith, 2001, p. 150). Statism refers to the way realists view the state as the primary actor; in other words, the state has all the power. Because the state is innately sovereign, it is autonomous in its decisions and thus has all the power to make and act on decisions without any overarching authority to regulate or punish the state. This type of system is considered anarchic and was first recognized in 1648 at the Peace of Westphalia (Gabel & Bruner, 2003) and is now referred to as the Westphalian system.