Iran NPT Withdrawal Threat Rings Hollow

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.

Wayne White

Wayne White is a former Deputy Director of the State Department's Middle East/South Asia Intelligence Office (INR/NESA). Earlier in the Foreign Service and later in the INR he served in Niger, Israel, Egypt, the Sinai and Iraq as an intelligence briefer to senior officials of many Middle East countries and as the State Department's representative to NATO Middle East Working Groups in Brussels. Now a Scholar with the Middle East Institute, Mr. White has written numerous articles, been cited in scores of publications, and made numerous TV and radio appearances.



  1. The Iranians can hardly start openly telling the Israelis to “bring it on”, threatening to withdraw from the NPT is probably the next best thing. However, Ali Larijani is doing no more than flying a kite and Iranians along with Afghans and Pakistanis are masters of that art.

  2. Ali Larijani is an idiot and a wannabe dictator who has no understanding how his words increase the danger of war.

    Plus, he and his brothers have recently been caught trying to steal 1,000 acres of land in Tehran, near the ring road.

  3. It is rather naive to state that a military strike on Iran will be accelerated based upon what Iranian leaders say. No matter what Iranians say, the mainstream media will distort it. This doesn’t mean that they should utter stupid statements or show disunity. Having said that, it doesn’t pay to appease the West. Once you show weakness, they will push you so hard that your back will be against the wall.

  4. “…based on what Iranian leaders say.”

    The world can either believe what Iranian leaders say (believe them that they intend to obliterate Israel) or not believe what Iranian leaders say (don’t believe them when they say they are not seeking nukes).

    Take your pick – either option is a disaster. This isn’t “appeasing the West”, this is defending the West against an insane regime.

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