The new decade began inauspiciously with the tragic 2 January crash of a UH-60M Black Hawk helicopter carrying the Taiwanese Chief of Staff General Shen Yi-ming, among others. A day later, an American drone strike killed the Iranian General Qassem Soleimani. General Shen was responsible for Taiwan’s efforts to strengthen its air power in the face of China’s rise; Soleimani led the Quds Force, a clandestine unit of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps which specialises in unconventional warfare and sponsors terrorism as part of its operations.
The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) or, as it is more colloquially known, the ‘Iran Deal’, was ratified in July 2015. It was meant to put an end to decades of tensions between the West and Iran, which were caused by Tehran’s controversial nuclear programme. The 2015 deal between Iran, the European Union and the P5+1 (i.e. the United Nations Security Council members, plus Germany) was simple. The P5+1 would lift their sanctions on Iran, and in exchange, Tehran would give up military ambitions for its nuclear programme. Western governments hoped this would prevent Iran from gaining nuclear capabilities, and avertan otherwise possible nuclear arms race in the Middle East. On 8 May 2018, however, US President Donald Trump withdrew the United States of America from the deal, calling it ‘decaying and rotten’. His decision cast significant uncertainties on the agreement. Now that the JCPOA is endangered, a fundamental question remains: will Iran get the bomb? To answer this, we must first consider whether Iran is technically capable of obtaining and using a nuclear weapon.