Universiteit Leiden

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PhD project

Understanding coercive nuclear reversal dynamics: A comparative case study of the US coercive diplomacy against the nuclear programs of Iran, Libya and South Africa

What are the conditions under which coercive diplomacy can compel a State to abandon its controversial nuclear (weapons) program? Based on the experience of the US coercive diplomacy against the nuclear programs of three countries, namely Iran, Libya and South Africa, Jean Yves Ndzana’s PhD research project aims at answering the (research) question mentioned above, thus investigate the conducive conditions of coercive diplomacy in the Non-Proliferation realm.

Jean Yves Ndzana Ndzana

In this regard, Jean Yves hypothesised that coercive diplomacy could compel a State under two main conditions: first, when the coercer’s strategy exploits the vulnerabilities of its adversary; Second, when the controversial nuclear program of the target poses a severe threat to the vital or strategic interests of the coercer. While analysing the conducive conditions of a coercive diplomacy strategy is not new, the added value of Jean Yves’s research project lies in the synchronised approach of the coercive instruments. Unlike previous research, which emphasises one coercive instrument (either economic sanctions or military air strikes), Jean Yves analyses the cumulative effect of the simultaneous use of the different instruments in each of the case studies mentioned above. In addition, the choice of case studies is not based only on their acrimonious foreign policy toward the US (except for South Africa) but, more importantly, on the level of advancement of their nuclear programs. This second factor is strategic as it sheds light on the resolve of the coercer (the US) to effectively tame the nuclear progress of the targets (Iran, Libya and South Africa).  

Combined with the process tracing method and the structured, focused comparison, our approach is worthy in several regards. From a non-unitary actor perspective, it helps to shed insightful light on the target’s decision-making through its response to the coercer. Based on the target’s compliance or defiance, one will be able to identify the domestic constituency that prevailed in the nuclear policy-making of the target. This strategy will also help to unfold the mechanism behind the causality (the relationship between cause and effect) of the decision of the target to yield or resist the demands of the coercer, thus, exposing hence the weak points of the target. In this regard, the conclusion reached by Jean Yves will not only advance the academic debate on the conducive conditions of coercive diplomacy but also provide practical and effective advice to policymakers on the "how" to successfully compel a State to abandon its controversial nuclear program.

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