Mousavian: Iran’s Options Include Building a Nuclear Weapon, or Withdrawing from the NPT

This is a powerful new piece by Seyed Hossein Mousavian, Iran’s former chief nuclear negotiator, that’s getting a lot of attention in nonproliferation circles. In it, he goes through five options that Iran has for dealing with the dispute with the West over its nuclear program. Two of these options are building a nuclear weapon, and withdrawing from the NPT, respectively.  You really need to read the whole thing to see why the piece is so powerful and is being so widely talked about. It makes for a disturbing read.

I think the underlying message to the West is that Iran, quite reasonably, cannot be expected to abide by the current status quo forever. Like any sovereign state with a strong sense of national identity and pride, and significant resources, it will be highly resistant to coercion by outside forces into taking actions it doesn’t perceive to be in its national interest. And like any similarly situated state, it does have other options – some of which would be extremely unwelcome to the West and to Israel. Again, I think the underlying message here to the West is that the West needs to get serious about achieving a negotiated solution, before Iran decides it must take one of these other steps.

Just to note, I did recently publish a two-part treatment of the question of whether Iran can legally withdraw from the NPT, and what the legal implications of such a withdrawal would be.  See the papers here and here.


11 Comments on “Mousavian: Iran’s Options Include Building a Nuclear Weapon, or Withdrawing from the NPT”

  1. The significance of Mousavian’s piece is not only due to what he says, but also in the fact that, (1) he represents the Rafsanjani/Khatami/Rouhani faction of the Iranian politics that recently won the presidential election in a landslide with very high rate of people participation, and (2) he is likely to play an influential role in the incoming Rouhani administration’s nuclear negotiations team, even if he may not be officially a member (though I believe he will be in due time). So, what Mousavian is saying – unofficially on behalf of the Rouhani administration – is that Iran wants a reasonable solution, but that it has other options, and essentially dares the West to stop Iran, if it decides to take a path along the two options that Dan points out.

    • Dan Joyner says:

      Very interesting.

    • Bibi Jon says:

      Perhaps not so much “dares the west”, as ‘serves notice to the west’ so that the various eventualities won’t elicit ill-considered responses. There should be plenty time for a fresh coat of bright red, or whiteout to be applied to any previously over-exuberantly drawn lines.

  2. yousaf says:

    Countries sign up to treaties if they get benefits from them.

    About 120 countries back Iran’s position:

    The IAEA desperately needs reform before there is a mass-exodus from the NPT, in a “Non-proliferation Spring”:

    Just like the US withdrew from the ABM treaty, nations can withdraw from treaties if they sense certain treaties are not in their benefit.

    An important line from Mousavian’s piece:

    ” Boroujerdi added that “all options are on the parliament’s table.” “

  3. Nick says:

    My take is a little bit more pragmatic. I agree that Mousavian is closely tied to Rohani’s camp, but I doubt that the end game is for Iran to exit NPT, under any scenario. Although, I believe that USG will never accept Iran’s *full* enrichment rights (meaning arbitrary number and efficiency of centrifuges) as prescribed by the treaty, and hence Iran should have exited long time ago.

    Mousavian’s statement might be a sign that sanctions are not going to be tolerated by Iran anymore because of their impact on sever inflation (40%) and unemployment, and a new approach is definitely needed. Unfortunately, judging by public comments from Obama officials, this second term is also going to be the same as before. Let’s hope behind the scenes second and third track interlocutors are more imaginative in their efforts.

  4. yousaf says:

    I just noticed that Soltanieh had made similar statements recently:

  5. Mohammad says:

    Very interesting article. I believe that increasing transparency, forcefully reiterating Iran’s total opposition to nuclear weapons, and at the same time, leaving the NPT would be a smart move.

  6. Cyrus says:

    The idea of leaving the NPT is based on the false assumptions that the sanctions and pressures on Iran are “based on the NPT” — which they are not. Hence leaving the NPT won’t remove the sanctions or pressures, and in fact would allow the US to scaremonger more about Iran’s nuclear program which it will claim is now defintely intended for nukes since Iran left the NPT.

    • Cyrus says:

      …and I should add that Iran already showed “pragmatism” and flexibility, including when Iran suspended enrichment entirely for close to 3 years under the very same Rohani, and what did Iran get in return? Bupkiss. Nothing’s changed.

      • fafnir says:

        What would be the advantages for iran of a nuclear deterrent?
        If iran is going to be made to pay a price for a nuclear weapons program it doesnt have then surely at a certain point the advantages of having a deterrent would outweigh or at least equal the costs

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