Analysis & Opinions - Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists

How Does Religion Really Influence Iranian Nuclear Policy?

| November 18, 2014

One of the most enduring myths about post-revolutionary Iran is that the country's policies, including those on nuclear matters, are shaped by its leadership's obsession with martyrdom and Messianic ideals. Many observers, especially in the arms control community, base their analyses on this notion, and it leads to some harrowing conclusions. If, after all, a country's stance is basically suicidal, there's no telling what it would do with a nuclear weapon. A careful and more nuanced look at the role of religion in Iranian decision-making, though, debunks the idea that martyrdom rules in Tehran, and gives a much more realistic basis for understanding the regime's behavior.

To be sure, there are reasons why some analysts see the Iranian government as driven by martyrdom. The idea originated with the 1980–1988 Iran-Iraq War, which helped shape the Iranian psyche and the image of the Islamic Republic in the world....

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For more information on this publication: Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation: Tabatabai, Ariane.“How Does Religion Really Influence Iranian Nuclear Policy?.” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, November 18, 2014.

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