The overarching question imparting urgency to this exploration is: Can U.S.-Russian contention in cyberspace cause the two nuclear superpowers to stumble into war? In considering this question we were constantly reminded of recent comments by a prominent U.S. arms control expert: At least as dangerous as the risk of an actual cyberattack, he observed, is cyber operations’ “blurring of the line between peace and war.” Or, as Nye wrote, “in the cyber realm, the difference between a weapon and a non-weapon may come down to a single line of code, or simply the intent of a computer program’s user.”
The adoption of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), or what is more commonly known as the 2015-Iran nuclear deal, represents a milestone in the history of the international dispute over Iran’s nuclear program as well as the global nuclear non-proliferation efforts. Understanding how this major nuclear policy shift came about would give us insights into Iran’s nuclear decision-making processes and help put into perspective its current and future nuclear policies. By developing and applying a synthetic analytic framework, this seminar argues that the political empowerment of the “moderate-Islamic discourse,” reinforced by a multitude of systemic and domestic political, economic and institutional variables, played a key role in this process. By defining different cost conceptions and levels of sensitivity to costs for the majority Iranian political elites, this talk contends that the empowerment of the moderate-Islamic discourse created the necessary conditions under which US-led economic sanctions became politically salient to Iran’s nuclear policy and paved the way for the nuclear compromise.