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Iran's nuclear propensity: the probability of nuclear use

Non-proliferation Paper No. 38

Non-proliferation Paper No. 38

Publisher: SIPRI
15pp.
March, 2014

If Iran somehow manages to acquire a nuclear capability, it would be extremely useful to try to understand the possible consequences for regional security and especially the probability of the use of nuclear weapons by Iran. This paper identifies and assesses six risks arising from assumed nuclear proliferation. In addition, a number of research questions are identified, issues of critical importance regarding Iran’s nuclear propensity that need to be further examined and analysed by government agencies and research institutes as additional information is urgently required regarding the country’s strategic culture. Summarizing the speculative analysis presented, if nuclear weapons were to be used in the Middle East, this would most likely result from a miscalculation, an accidental detonation or launch of a nuclear device, or an act of desperation. However small the risk of each individual scenario may be, the cumulative risk of all the possible dangers arising from assumed nuclear proliferation should also be considered. Although Iran’s nuclearization would not, at least initially, cause a substantial increase in the probability of nuclear use in the region, it would nevertheless remain an unwelcome development as it would probably intensify regional instability, multiply the number of nuclear decisionmaking centres and further complicate strategic calculations.