Iran has made a choice, and that choice is to sustain a global stance of nuclear realism. And it has chosen to do this in no small part because its chief opponents who favor the new school of institutionalism are unable and unwilling to counterpunch. For right now, the major organizations of global collaboration are actually down if not out on the mats of the boxing ring, fearing, in reality, their own revival. If they arise and confront Iran, they would not only bring unwanted attention to a significant and potentially expensive conflict (which they cannot afford), they might also even have to acknowledge that they are able to unleash an entire new level of nuclear manipulation and confusion, one that would engage the destructive capabilities of cyberwarfare -- a potential blow to many elements of deterrence and power.
At this point, however, the match could be seen as being a winning round for Iran. Even a small stinging jab that is not well professionally executed like the supposed planned attack on the Saudi ambassador is likely viewed as a willingness to stay true to their Cold War approach against other regional challengers, including Saudi Arabia (Boucek, C. And Sadjadpour, K. 2011). Iran is thought to want to be perceived as being confrontational because they want to be seen as defenders of the past and of traditional Islamic beliefs that don't always encourage progress. Staying visibly aggressive enables it to be a true defender of the old tactics that are in many ways the foundation of realism, or at least the older concepts. If Iran is to emerge as the recognized leader in Islamic national leadership, it must knock back all challengers and act as forthright as possible regarding spiritual precepts (Korab-Karpowicz, W. Julian, 2010). And that means swinging a punch when it can at those who otherwise oppose its positioning, including Saudi Arabia (the target of its weak assassination ploy) and existing proponents of institutionalism such as the EU and the U.S. (And perhaps therefore moving itself no further than the ideals of neorealism as the Stanford summary of Korab-Karpowicz suggests).
In many ways, the approach that Iran is using is highly consistent with the power-balancing expectations laid out by the traditional defenders of the ideals of realism. For no matter that realism is whole cloth about strength and national self-interest, it does not deny the need for collaboration and manipulation of others to ensure a victory. This perspective relies on ceding some positions of strength to basically keep the fight going. The overall distain and worry about terrorism and one's willingness or not to pull a nuclear trigger can thus be used to position even a small nation in a very favorable light if the goal is sheer strength of competition. For Muslim states who worry more about damage to their brand, this fight may be distasteful, and so they end up ceding more credibility to the nations who are willing to stand up and be noticed.
Of course, one cannot discount the impact of the force of the weapons of petroleum manipulation either. Iran is openly challenging other nations like Saudi Arabia that it may assume are unwilling to do much besides stay quiet for fear of awakening its own sleeping giant of inequality. While they may be able to protect themselves against some anti-authoritarian attacks, they too could be hurt by larger conflicts over the wealth that oil brings in and who gets the rewards. The entire sector of petroleum profits is poised to be hit hard by this wave of discontent, and the leaders of Saudi Arabia do not want to be seen on the wrong side of this possible revolution. It also surely doesn't help that the Obama administration is encouraging green revolts of various kinds that are likely also to catch on. Many countries in the region may want to run from this uncertainty, but for now it seems that Iran thinks it could be helpful to their perception of reality.
In choosing to stay tied to international realism, however, the Iranians also open themselves up to the ravages of progress. Many writers have noted that realism is very anti-progress, even if some have tried to balance the perspectives of liberalism, feminism, etc., with the ideas of self-interest and power domination. Giving in on some perceived backwards practices, for example, could be seen as allowing just a little of the camel's nose in. But the larger issue of control will still predominate. Theorists on realism think that it may be impossible for realism to discount some degrees of advancement, and the digital communication explosion could be one that Iran is really fearful of. If for no other reason that those same tools have nuclear implications.
The introduction of the Stuxnet worm is potentially very damaging to Iran (NYT, Oct. 17, 2011). It may not be able to face down the implications of the reality of what could happen if another nuclear player could not just ignore their nuclear threat but could literally wipe away their nuclear programming. And there is evidence that they know this possibility exists. The Stuxnet is said by the NYT to be a computer coding Trojan Horse that is reported to be able to jump from a web or Windows environment directly into the controlling technologies of nuclear energy or weaponry. This means that someone could remove an opponent from the ring in a way that they really could no longer compete at all. And this has got to be something that no major power wants to face down at all.
From the viewpoint (down on the mat) of those who favor institutionalism, Iran's strategy is short-lived but troublesome. Particularly in light of the problems that the EU, who is the recognized lead entity in this regard and others are having as they go through their own global economic meltdowns. These financial instabilities have made it impossible for them to fulfill their goals or to act in confident ways as they would like as they move closer to living out what it means to support institutionalism. They cannot easily muster the resources to counter global military challenges. Even the U.S., who can be perceived as acting as an institutionalism organization, finds itself unable or unwilling to showcase its strength in light of anti-government and anti-spending prejudices (Jonsson, C. And Tallberg, J., n.d).
For proponents of contemporary institutionalism (at least in periods of less economic conflict), this perspective is much more conducive to today's realities than Iran's approach. Institutionalism assumes certain basic elements that can be narrowed down to three focuses. These usually encompass assumptions that assume institutions the serve the planet will serve rational, historical and/or normative purposes. This means that they can act as needed as a singular collective body in search of these outcomes, or they are strong enough to allow their individual members to achieve their own goals along the same lines. Many of the players of the EU have taken their own paths to capitalize on the advantages of their collective progress, though they have been knocked back by the global financial disaster they are trying to stabilize. Without the economic struggles, the many elements of the EU could handle the conflict in their own ways without weakening the larger entity itself. For the U.S., it too is acting like an organizational element of institutionalism even if it doesn't have the buildings, furnishings, etc. that some have said in their assumptions about the new institutionalism can fit into this model (Jonsson, C. And Tallberg, J. (n.d), see page 2). This means that the U.S. And the EU are out of contention when it comes to protecting allies like Saudi Arabia from continued attacks, even small and poorly designed ones.…