On January 28, 2021, the Iranian daily Tabnak, which is associated with the pragmatic circles in the Iranian regime, published an article by Mostafa Najafi, secretary of the foreign and international relations working group of the regime's Expediency Council and political commentator for Middle East affairs. In the article, titled "Why Iran Is Demanding A Nuclear Bomb," he examined Iran's nuclear program options with the new U.S. administration of President Biden, in light of Biden's announcement that he would be interested in a U.S. return to the JCPOA nuclear deal.
Najafi explained that the nuclear weapons option was best for Iran because there is no guarantee that a return to unending negotiations with the West would yield an agreement that the West would honor, as was seen with the JCPOA, or that sanctions on Iran would be lifted. He argued that Iranian nuclear weapons and the nuclear balance of terror that Iran would thus attain would lead to Middle East stability, based on the theories of American political scientist Kenneth N. Waltz (d. 2013), the father of the neorealist (or structural realist) theory of international relations. Najafi went on to state that Iran would not use nuclear weapons to invade neighboring countries, but in order to establish its own security – that is, its regime. He also justified Iran's right to nuclear weapons with the claim that nuclear weapons states (NWS) are deterred by nuclear weapons states tend not to engage in provocation.
Earlier, on December 13, 2020, Najafi had published a similar article in the Iranian Foreign Ministry mouthpiece Irdiplomacy.ir, after President Trump failed to win reelection.
It should be noted that Najafi's arguments justifying Iran's obtaining nuclear weapons are invalid: Iran as a nuclear weapons state will spark a regional nuclear arms race. Furthermore, nuclear weapons states do not refrain from engaging in provocation when it serves their interests. Najafi's assurances that Iran will not use nuclear weapons to invade neighboring countries is no guarantee that it will not act against them in other ways, secure in the knowledge that it is protected from Western pressure because it has nuclear weapons. Additionally, the West will no longer be able to pressure Iran on any matter, and the European demands that Iran limit its regional expansion and development of ballistic missiles will be futile.
The following are the main points of Najafi's article in Tabnak:
"[President] Biden was very clear: If Iran completely fulfills its obligations in the [JCPOA] nuclear deal, America will do so as well... U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said at his first press conference: 'If Iran fulfills its obligations first, America will do likewise. Iran is out of compliance on a number of fronts. And it would take some time, should it make the decision to do so, for it to come back into compliance, and first we must ascertain that they are in compliance.' Although these claims may not be the American administration's final positions, they complicate the resuscitation of the nuclear agreement, particularly when Europe has taken the same position [as the U.S.] in recent days and weeks – to the point where France's foreign minister made an American return to the nuclear deal conditional upon Iran's fulfilling its nuclear obligations.
"Although the diplomatic window [of opportunity] is still open, and while there may be a need for a change in the [Iranian] government's approach, the important question is how long the cycle of Iran-West negotiations on Iran's nuclear issue in general, and particularly on the nuclear agreement, should continue. How long are Iran's foreign policy and the public's livelihood supposed to be held hostage to the endless cycle of nuclear negotiations?
"If the Biden administration does not want to return to the agreement unconditionally – [that is,] without amendments or talks about some of the sections in it – Iran will face complex sanctions and the country will enter a complex period of negotiations that are more difficult, more ambiguous, and more dangerous than in the past. The question is, what must be done? In effect, if the American administration does not want to return to the nuclear agreement under the existing conditions, what options does Iran have?
"As I wrote for Irdiplomacy.ir a while ago, Iran has three options for its nuclear program:
"a) Abandoning all Iranian nuclear programs – This option has few supporters in Iran – mostly those who think that nuclear energy has a high political, security, and economic price for Iran... It can be said that there is widespread consensus among the public and the political and intellectual elites that nuclear energy is essential for the future life of the country. Abandoning the nuclear program will not only not solve Iran's security problem, but it will multiply the security fears among Iran's decision makers and elite.
Source: Tabnak (Iran), January 28, 2021
"b) Continuing the current cycle of negotiations – The chances of this second option [being accepted] are also not bright. An unresolved cycle [of negotiations] spread out over at least two decades has not managed to close Iran's nuclear file as a [matter of] international dispute. The important point is that while there is no consent in Iran regarding the continuation of this cycle of negotiations and the methods and directions linked to it, there is no guarantee that Iran will arrive at any agreement whatsoever with the West [and that the West] will honor it, as was achieved in the nuclear deal or before it – [because] we were witness to its violation by America and Europe. The continuation of this negotiation cycle will significantly harm Iran and its future economic development.
"c) Obtaining nuclear weapons – The final option for Iran is to exit the cycle of negotiations and [attain] nuclear deterrence. This is a possibility that, although it has few fans in Iran, is finding more and more supporters. In fact, a growing number of commentators, experts, and individuals in Iranian society are agreeing with Kenneth Waltz – the greatest and most famous international relations theoretician in recent decades – that Iran's attaining nuclear capability and might is the best option for [achieving] stability in the Middle East, for resolving the nuclear dispute, and for Iran's development [here Najafi directs readers to a 2012 article by Waltz in Foreign Affairs titled 'Why Iran Should Get The Bomb']...
"The third scenario [i.e. the one set out by Waltz] is that Iran should move openly to developing and testing [nuclear] weapons. America and Israel will oppose this policy, but Waltz believes, in light of his historic experience, that rival countries will ultimately adapt to live together with a new [nuclear] weapons state.
"Making Iran a nuclear [weapons] state will create a situation in which Iran will use [nuclear] weapons in order to assure its security, not to invade neighboring and other [countries]. Nuclear weapons states try to refrain from engaging in provocative behavior, because they consider themselves vulnerable to operations by other countries.
"Overall, it appears that no end can be imagined for the cycle of Iran-West negotiations on [Iran's] nuclear program. [The continuation of negotiations] will leave Iran's economic development, and its security dilemma, unresolved, and will make Iran's opportunities for development ambiguous and unclear.
"This fear for Iran's future because of the Western sanctions is persuading many in Iran that [Iran] must attain 'ultimate deterrence' and that the country must be saved from [becoming] hostage to the nuclear dispute and the Western sanctions."