The Consequences for NATO of a Nuclear Armed Iran
At the time of writing (Summer 2010), it seems reasonable to assume that Iran has reached, or has nearly reached (depending on the definition one adopts) the “nuclear threshold.” However, while NATO is already taking into account the hypothesis of an Iranian threat, notably through its missile defense program, few comprehensive assessments, if any, have been made of what it would mean for NATO to live with a nuclear- armed Iran. This paper seeks to fill that gap.
It is necessary to state the point starkly: a nuclear-armed Iran would have profound, lasting, and far-reaching consequences on many if not most key NATO roles and missions. NATO’s Article 5 may need to be invoked to deter and defend against an Iranian threat or blackmail against Alliance territories. Security partnerships in the Near and Middle East would have to be adapted, if not transformed. NATO’s relationship with Russia would be affected too. NATO’s operations in the neighborhood of Iran would have to take into account the possible impact of Iran’s new status in terms of its projection of influence in those countries. And the existence of a nuclear-armed Iran might also make it more problematic for European countries to embark on new NATO operations in the Middle East or Central Asia.