At Foreign Affairs Ray Tayekh outlines the risks of Iran’s joining the list of countries with nuclear weapons:
Soon after the Iranians test a nuclear weapon, there will be much handwringing and finger-pointing. American credibility will be in tatters, and U.S. allies and partners in the region will begin to doubt Washington’s commitment and ability to protect them. Iran will be seemingly at the height of its power.
But the Islamic Republic will then discover the reality that all other nuclear-armed states, including the United States and the Soviet Union, have eventually grasped: it is nearly impossible to translate an atomic capability into strategic advantage. The mullahs who rule Iran have spent decades pursuing the bomb—weathering international isolation, sanctions, and a campaign of assassinations and subversion—and they will surely try to press their perceived advantage. They will brandish their arsenal and make demands, such as insisting that U.S. forces leave the region and that oil prices be set according to their preferences.
But what will they do if they are rebuffed? What happens if Israel and Saudi Arabia, backed in no uncertain terms by Washington, react to Iran’s provocations with their own show of determination? It is extremely doubtful that Iran would risk its own obliteration by using nuclear arms against them. In the end, the weapon that was supposed to enshrine Iran’s regional hegemony will likely result in no measurable change in Iranian power.
He’s missing the obvious. It makes little difference how Washington or Ankara or Riyad respond. A nuclear-armed Iran is an intolerable risk to Israel and they can’t afford to wait until the Iranian regime has used its nuclear weapons. It only takes one nuclear weapon to destroy Israel completely and, even if Washington were to attempt to dissuaded the Israelis from acting, they simply can’t afford to depend on us. The likelihood is that should Iran test a nuclear weapon it would itself provoke nuclear war.