Date of Award

Spring 5-5-2016

Degree Type



Political Science

First Reader

Tobias Lanz

Second Reader

William Thomas Christiansen


Few issues have dominated American foreign policy over the past 30 years than the contentious relationship that America holds with Iran. Of particular concern has been how the US should respond to the existence of an illicit nuclear program within Iran. As of January 16th of 2016 however, US-Iran relations entered a new era with the full implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action which outlines actions that Iran must take and maintain in order to rejoin the international community as a country with a legitimate interest in nuclear power. However, as we have learned from past nuclear deals, the JCPOA doesn’t guarantee that Iran will continue to follow international agreements in regards to its nuclear program. Because of the past experience that US has had with countries who have made commitments about their nuclear programs, it is necessary that we continue to analyze all facets of out relationship to Iran, and the threat of their nuclear program.

If we trust solely in international diplomacy, we lose the ability to retaliate in the event that Iran doesn’t uphold their end of the bargain. Without the guarantee of enforcement of the deal, Iran will have no incentive to continue to follow the deal. Because of this, continued analysis is necessary into the ability of the US and other countries to forcefully ensure that Iran doesn’t expand its current peaceful nuclear energy program into a dangerous nuclear arms program.

This analysis must include the possibility of a preemptive strike occurring in an attempt to delay Iran acquiring nuclear weapons. This paper will attempt to conduct such an analysis. The goal of this work is to determine if the US or Israel currently have the ability to put a halt to Iran’s development of a nuclear weapon if necessary. While this option is not needed at the moment, and is not, and should not be a topic of heated debate it remains an important peripheral issue. The wisdom of actually attacking Iran is a simple issue right now: it isn’t necessary. In fact, debating the wisdom of such an attack will largely be left out of this analysis. Except where that discussion directly is impacted by the ability of the US or Israel to successfully stop the development of a nuclear bomb by Iran, I will leave the topic without discussion.

What I will discuss is what an attack would look like, if the necessity arises. Before that analysis can take place, in Part I, a brief discussion of the development of the Iranian- US relations is necessary, along with a brief discussion of the history of Iran’s nuclear program in order to understand what facilities are important to the program. In Part II, I will briefly analyze the US and Israeli forces in the region, and their capabilities based on previous conflicts. In Part III, I will perform an analysis of the capabilities to inflict long-term damage on the Iranian nuclear weapons program based on current capabilities.

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