Date of Graduation

Fall 2013


Master of Science in Defense and Strategic Studies


Defense and Strategic Studies

Committee Chair

Andrei Shoumikhin


operational code, the Islamic Republic of Iran, tailored deterrence, dissuasion, proliferation, nuclear weapons, Verbs in Context (VICS)

Subject Categories

Defense and Security Studies


It is imperative U.S. policy-makers and their international partners dissuade Tehran from producing a nuclear weapon, and in the event policy-makers cannot, to deter Tehran from ever launching a nuclear weapon. Operational code analysis seeks to understand how a government makes decisions; greater understanding leads to a more effective deterrent strategy. Alexander George, a follower of Nathan Leites, further defined the operational code framework by asking ten questions, the answers to which define a government's operational code. This thesis asks and answers George's ten questions in relation to the Islamic Republic of Iran. Tehran's operational code is then applied to the issue of dissuading and deterring Iran in keeping with the tenets of tailored deterrence theory. Iran's operational code reveals strategic uses for nuclear weapons, as well as three targets of value the U.S. can hold at risk in order to deter Iran: disintegration of the "Axis of Resistance;” isolation from China and/or Russia; and the stimulation of internal public opposition. Realizing the extent to with Tehran values those assets gives wisdom on how to dissuade Iran best. Sanctions are not the best option for dissuading Iran from developing nuclear weapons. Instead, the U.S. should hold at risk those three assets in order to change Tehran's cost-benefit analysis regarding the amount of risk it is willing to endure. Finally, while Iran's operational code suggests some benefit to Iran having a virtual nuclear capability, having an operational, nuclear weapon capability appears to hold more benefit to Tehran than a mere virtual capability.


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