by Wayne White
The revival of the threat by a senior Iranian official, Ali Larijani, to withdraw from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), tends to reinforce the view that the Iranian leadership simply cannot grasp the psychology of the debate within Israel, Western states — and some regional actors — over whether the Iran/Nuclear impasse should warrant military action at some point.
Those most frightened by Iranian threats to quit the NPT in countries like the US, Israel, other concerned Western capitals (as well as a few of those in the region inclined to support some degree of potential military action) are the more responsible officials and observers trying to head off such a dangerous military venture. Like many others following this important issue, I personally regard the recent threat as a rather empty one: the Iranian leadership at least has shown by not following through on previous threats along these lines that it appreciates how provocative and risky parting ways with the NPT would be in strategic terms. Indeed, if Tehran did in fact follow through on these threats, actually severing itself from the NPT would increase suspicions dramatically over Iran’s nuclear intentions and undermine the belief that Iran would behave as a “rational” actor if it ever were in possession of a nuclear weapon.
By contrast, of course, many of those taking a tougher stand on the Iran/Nuclear issue outside Iran probably would LOVE to see Tehran take such a dramatically negative step because it would likely shift quite a few people (especially in terms of gaining popular support) toward the view that a resort to arms is the way to go.
If Tehran better understood the dynamics of the debate outside Iran and truly wants to strengthen the hand of those arguing against military action, Iranian decisionmakers could be far more creative — and less counterproductive — in what they say and do with regard to this increasingly divisive and dangerous issue.