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Unfounded Hopes: In the Event of a Nuclear Iran, We May Have to Impose a Naval Blockade

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Publication Date: January 2008

Publisher(s): Hoover Institution on War, Revolution, and Peace

Author(s): Peter Berkowitz; Shmuel Bar

Series: Hoover Digest

Topic: Government (Foreign relations)

Keywords: Nuclear weapons; Iran

Type: Report

Coverage: Iran

Abstract:

Deterrent theorists assert that a nuclear Iran may prove a stabilizing force in the region; that a nuclear Iran may provide the foundation for a regional order based on the Cold War doctrine of mutually assured destruction (MAD). Meanwhile, proponents of democracy promotion focus on Iran’s economic situation and the attraction of the younger generation to Western culture, arguing that U.S. “engagement” with civil society in Iran will generate an Iranian revolution, just as U.S. involvement with the opposition in the USSR contributed to the fall of the Soviet empire.

American involvement with the opposition in the USSR contributed to the fall of the Soviet empire, but it’s doubtful that American “engagement” with Iran’s civil society will generate an Iranian revolution. None of the stabilizing characteristics of the Cold War strategic balance exists in the wider Muslim world. The most effective choice may be a full-blown naval blockade of Iran, cutting off supplies of refined oil and other strategic goods. Because of Tehran’s dependence for roughly a third of its refined oil on imports, a blockade would bring the regime to a breaking point within months, if not weeks.