Iran’s Nuclear Ambitions
By Shahram Chubin, The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, September 2006, 244 pp.
Security expert Chubin argues in this sociopolitical study that the roots of Iran’s drive for nuclear capabilities and potentially for nuclear weapons lie less in perceived international threats than domestic Iranian politics. In particular, he says that political hard-liners such as Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad view the nuclear issue as a means of entrenching themselves in power and legitimating the Islamic regime. They also see it as a means of competing with the West for influence in the Middle East. By contrast, he contends, more pragmatic members of the regime view the nuclear card as a means of leverage for normalized relations with the West in hopes of bolstering the Iranian economy. Nonetheless, he says, neither faction is likely to test a nuclear weapon. Even the hard-liners would likely stop just short of such a test in hopes of remaining within the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty regime, Chubin claims.
Opinion on Nuclear Weapons, Terrorism, and Security
By Kerry G. Herron and Hank C. Jenkins-Smith, University of Pittsburgh Press, August 2006, 264 pp.
Texas A&M University professors Herron and Jenkins-Smith explore American attitudes on nuclear security and terrorism since the end of the Cold War. Based on more than 13,000 interviews conducted in the decade since 1993, the authors find that public views about nuclear weapons have remained surprisingly constant despite the changing landscape of threats. Indeed, changing perceptions of foreign threats were found to have little effect on nuclear policy preferences. Rather, Americans’ views on nuclear policy appear to be far more reflective of their ideological preferences and partisan leanings (such partisanship increased dramatically over the decade). Those with more conservative views perceive that increases in foreign threats imply the need for strengthening nuclear deterrence, while those with more liberal views believe that increased nuclear risks require dramatic reductions in the U.S. nuclear arsenal. Deterrence as a strategy, however, is declining in public appeal. Perception of what constitutes an appropriate level for U.S. nuclear forces has dropped since 1997.
Shopping for Bombs: Nuclear Proliferation, Global Insecurity, and the Rise and Fall of the A.Q. Khan Network
By Gordon Corera, Oxford University, September 2006, 304 pp.
BBC correspondent Corera offers a detailed account of the rise and downfall of Pakistani scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan and his nuclear proliferation network. Much of the book focuses on U.S. and British intelligence failures that allowed Khan both to procure items for Pakistan’s nuclear program and become a proliferator of nuclear equipment and technology to others. Corera details the West’s monitoring of Khan’s activities and argues that the United States did not take action in the late 1970s and early 1980s when it had information about Khan’s procurement activities because of Pakistan’s perceived role in fighting communism. But he also notes the eventual intelligence successes and the new willingness to act on those successes that eventually led to Khan’s downfall.
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