This chapter appears in Sokolski, H. D. and Clawson, P. (eds) Getting Ready for a Nuclear-Ready Iran, Strategic Studies Institute, United States Army War College, 2005.
The acquisition of nuclear weapons by terrorists or any additional states would shake the international system. The more strategically important the state, the greater the potential threat to global security.
Iran is a strategically vital actor in the international system. It incarnates an historically major civilization. It is the largest state in the regional complex that comprises the Persian Gulf, the Middle East, and Central Asia, including Turkey. Major developments in Iran, therefore, have wide reverberations simply as a matter of political geophysics. Iran’s large role in the global supply of fossil fuels makes it still more important. As a direct source of fuel, and also as a shaper of regional dynamics, Iran can signifi cantly affect the global economy, and therefore politics. Iran’s ties to terrorist organizations operating (primarily) in the Middle East renders Tehran a vital actor in the international campaign against terrorism.
Iran has the capability to peacefully augment or violently disrupt U.S. missions in Afghanistan and Iraq. Thus, a major change in Iran’s military strength and/or political status would directly affect major U.S. and international interests.
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