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Attacking Iran to Dismantle Its Nuclear Program Will Create More Instability and Endanger U.S. Interests


Yishai Gelb


The belief that military action against Iran to dismantle its nuclear program will lead to greater instability and endanger U.S. interests is a misconception that underestimates the broader consequences of allowing a hostile regime to acquire nuclear capabilities. The risks of inaction far outweigh the potential short-term destabilization that might result from a targeted strike. To understand this, we can examine the case of North Korea and the wider implications for global security, human rights, and international trade.

The North Korea Case Study

North Korea serves as a compelling example of the dangers posed by allowing a totalitarian regime to obtain nuclear weapons. The regime's nuclear capabilities have emboldened its aggressive stance, both domestically and internationally. Internally, the North Korean government has used its nuclear arsenal as a shield against external intervention, allowing it to continue severe human rights abuses with impunity. The regime's oppressive control over its population, including widespread forced labor, starvation, and political repression, has been reinforced by its nuclear status, making external pressure and efforts for reform almost impossible.

Regionally, North Korea's nuclear capabilities have created significant instability. Its frequent missile tests and nuclear threats have heightened tensions in East Asia, prompting neighboring countries such as South Korea and Japan to enhance their military defenses and consider their own nuclear options. This arms race in one of the world's most economically vibrant regions poses a persistent threat to global security.

Implications of a Nuclear Iran

A nuclear-armed Iran would similarly destabilize the Middle East, a region already plagued by conflict and volatility. The Iranian regime's support for proxy groups and terrorist organizations, such as Hezbollah and Hamas, would be greatly amplified by the possession of nuclear weapons. These groups, already a source of regional instability, could become even more emboldened, leading to increased violence and conflict across the Middle East.

Domestic Human Rights Abuses

Internally, a nuclear-armed Iran would likely continue and even intensify its human rights abuses with impunity. The Iranian government has a long history of suppressing political dissent, restricting freedom of speech, and persecuting minority groups. With nuclear capabilities, the regime would be even less susceptible to international pressure and sanctions aimed at improving human rights conditions. The fear of a nuclear reprisal would deter many countries from taking strong actions against Iran's domestic policies, allowing the regime to continue its oppressive practices without significant consequences.

This scenario would set a dangerous precedent for other authoritarian regimes. If Iran can shield itself from international scrutiny and intervention through its nuclear arsenal, other human rights abusers might be incentivized to pursue nuclear weapons as a means to secure their regimes. This proliferation would not only threaten global security but also perpetuate cycles of abuse and repression within these countries, as the international community becomes increasingly powerless to intervene.

Regional Arms Race and Instability

A nuclear Iran would likely trigger a regional arms race. Countries such as Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Egypt might pursue their own nuclear programs in response, leading to a proliferation of nuclear weapons in a region with multiple ongoing conflicts and rivalries. The potential for miscalculation, accidental launches, or nuclear weapons falling into the hands of extremist groups would significantly increase, posing a dire threat to regional and global security.

Threat to U.S. Interests and Global Stability

Allowing Iran to obtain nuclear weapons would severely undermine U.S. efforts to maintain global stability and promote a rules-based international order. A nuclear-armed Iran would challenge U.S. influence in the Middle East, making it more difficult to safeguard strategic interests, including the security of key allies such as Israel and Saudi Arabia. The U.S. military presence and its ability to project power in the region would be increasingly constrained.

Moreover, a nuclear Iran would harm global trade and economic stability. The Middle East is a critical hub for the world's energy supplies, and increased instability could disrupt oil and gas exports, leading to higher prices and economic uncertainty worldwide. The potential for conflict in the Strait of Hormuz, a vital chokepoint for global energy shipments, would escalate, threatening the free flow of trade and impacting global markets.

Harm to Globalization and Cooperation

A nuclear Iran would also hinder efforts to promote globalization, international cooperation, and security. The threat of nuclear proliferation and the destabilization of a key region would make it more challenging for the international community to work together on global issues such as climate change, economic development, and counter-terrorism. The risk of nuclear technology falling into the hands of non-state actors would further complicate international security efforts, making the world a less safe place for travel, trade, and cooperation.


In conclusion, the idea that military action against Iran to dismantle its nuclear program would create more instability and endanger U.S. interests is a flawed argument. The risks of allowing a hostile regime to acquire nuclear capabilities far outweigh the potential short-term destabilization that might result from a targeted strike. The case of North Korea illustrates the severe human rights abuses and regional instability that can result from allowing a totalitarian regime to possess nuclear weapons. A nuclear Iran would trigger a regional arms race, undermine U.S. interests, and threaten global stability, trade, and cooperation. The international community must recognize these broader implications and take decisive action to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons.

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