Security Dilemma Issues a Case Study of Iraq And Iran

As long as the concept of a unified world government is an ideal, the essential feature of international politics will remain as the state of anarchy. The theories of” Security Dilemma” and “Balance of Power,” which result from that anarchy, are still playing important roles in international politics today.

The Term was coined by John H. Herz in his 1951 book Political Realism and Political Idealism. At the same time British historian Herbert Butterfield also described the same situation in his History and Human Conditions, but referred to it as the “absolute predicament and irreducible dilemma”

The core argument of the security dilemma is that, in the absence of a supranational authority that can enforce binding agreements, many of the steps pursued by states to bolster their security have the effect — often unintended and unforeseen — of making other states less secure. The anarchic nature of the international system imposes constraints on states’ behavior. Even if they can be certain that the current intentions of other states are benign, they can neither neglect the possibility that the others will become aggressive in the future nor credibly guarantee that they themselves will remain peaceful. But as each state seeks to be able to protect itself, it is likely to gain the ability to menace others. When confronted by this seeming threat, other states will react by acquiring arms and alliances of their own and will come to see the first state as hostile. In this way, the interaction between states generates strife rather than merely revealing or accentuating conflicts stemming from differences over goals. Although other motives such as greed, glory, and honor come into play, much of international politics is ultimately driven by fear. When the security is even rebuffed, then also the problem of security dilemma arises drastically, because of a common fear which exists between two nations about their own security concerns and one might feel insecure due to the conditions existing in time.

Now we can look into some of the case studies which may be existing in recent times.


Anyone following events in Iraq could be forgiven for thinking that we know relatively little about the dynamics of communal civil wars. In addition, anyone who remembers Bosnia and the rest of the “ugly nineties” has observed that the list of countries that have ripped themselves apart in communal civil wars seems to be growing. At the same time, resolving these conflicts is now seen as a deeply intractable problem. In almost every region we observe, communal civil wars are at or near the top of US policy agendas, most of all in Iraq, but also in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and Darfur.

In fact, we have learned quite a lot about civil wars. Before the conflict in Bosnia, the conventional wisdom was that multi-communal states that had been torn apart by war should be put back together by power-sharing between communities or electoral reform. Such initiatives, it was reasoned, would compel politicians to appeal to all communities, not just their own, as well as to third party aid for reconstruction. Unfortunately, these approaches have rarely worked well.

The Iraqi Perspectives Project (IPP) review of captured Iraqi documents uncovered strong evidence that links the regime of Saddam Hussein to regional and global terrorism. Despite their incompatible long-term goals, many terrorist movements and Saddam found a common enemy in the United States. At times these organizations worked together, trading access for capability. In the period after the 1991 Gulf War, the regime of Saddam Hussein supported a complex and increasingly disparate mix of pan-Arab revolutionary causes and emerging pan-Islamic radical movements.

A study found no “smoking gun” (i.e., direct connection) between Saddam’s Iraq and al Qaeda.

Saddam’s interest in, and support for, non-state actors was spread across a variety of revolutionary, liberation, nationalist, and Islamic terrorist organizations. Some in the regime recognized the potential high internal and external costs of maintaining relationships with radical Islamic groups, yet they concluded that in some cases, the benefits of association outweighed the risks. A review of available Iraqi documents indicated the following:

o The Iraqi regime was involved in regional and international terrorist operations prior to OPERATION IRAQI FREEDOM. The predominant targets of Iraqi state terror operations were Iraqi citizens, both inside and outside of Iraq.

o On occasion, the Iraqi intelligence services directly targeted the regime’s perceived enemies, including non-Iraqis. Non-Iraqi casualties often resulted from Iraqi sponsorship of non-governmental terrorist groups.

o Saddam’s regime often cooperated directly, albeit cautiously, with terrorist groups when they believed such groups could help advance Iraq’s long-term goals. The regime carefully recorded its connections to Palestinian terror organizations in numerous government memos. One such example documents Iraqi financial support to families of suicide bombers in Gaza and the West Bank.

o State sponsorship of terrorism became such a routine tool of state power that Iraq developed elaborate bureaucratic processes to monitor progress and accountability in the recruiting, training, and resourcing of terrorists. Examples include the regime’s development, construction, certification, and training for car bombs and suicide vests in 1999 and 2000.


Since the fall of Mohammed Reza Shah in 1979, the Islamic Republic of Iran has remained politically isolated from the United States and the West. After eight years of brutal war with Iraq, Iran has embarked on a major effort to rebuild its devastated military. A major element of its military reconstruction has been the acquisition of advanced weapons systems with strategic applications, such as long-range bombers, submarines, advanced underwater mines, and ballistic missiles. Iran is also suspected of pursuing the development and acquisition of weapons of mass destruction. Given Iran’s latent hostility towards the United States and its past willingness to engage in terrorism, these activities are a most serious concern.

One of the most significant such dilemmas is the US presence in Iraq and Afghanistan. Saddam Hussein’s Iraq was the gravest threat to Iran’s security, followed by the Taliban government and its brand of Sunni extremism. The United States removed both threats. Iran should, therefore, feel that its security position has improved significantly. This in turn should reduce Iran’s perceived interest in acquiring nuclear weapons capabilities.

However, many Iranians see the same reality from an entirely different viewpoint. Instead of Saddam Hussein’s regime, Iran now confronts on its western and eastern borders the most powerful military in the history of the world and a radical ideological government in Washington bent on overturning governments like Iran’s. The American presence surrounding Iran has not improved security but rather has put a dagger to Iran’s front and back. If ever a country needs nuclear weapons to deter a stronger adversary, it is Iran.

But perhaps the crucial dilemma for Iranian and American officials concerns the question of regime change. Iranian citizens essentially have voted for regime change several times and have not obtained it. The unelected Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamene’I, as well as the judiciary and security apparatus he controls, have prevented the elected president and parliament from directing the state. Unfortunately, these unelected men determine whether Iran will seek nuclear weapons, conduct terrorism, or recognize Israel’s right to exist. Few inside or out of Iran believe the US can or should remove this regime. Thus, if vital international problems need to be resolved now, there is little choice but to deal with the people who have power in Iran.


Thus this article has inspected into the newer issues regarding the concept of security dilemma. The author has tried to give an unbiased view regarding the Middle East. The position of Iraq and Iran are largely volatile and very sensitive. The author has tried his best to look at the position carefully so as to avoid giving any radically different or hurting views towards anyone.

The security dilemma is a popular concept with cognitive and international relations theorists, who regard war as essentially arising from failures of communication. Functionalist theorists affirm that the key to avoiding war is the avoidance of miscommunication through proper signaling.

Source by Barnik Ghosh