For his blog for the Council on Foreign Relations, Micah Zenko decided to … Ask the Experts: What Would Iran Do With a Bomb? The reply of one, Kyle Beardsley of Emory University, provides an instructive answer to the question of whether nuclear weapons would provide Iran with deterrence.
Given that Iran already has a strong deterrent—via its importance to hydrocarbon supplies, robust conventional forces, ability to disrupt fragile situations in Lebanon and Iraq, and Western war weariness—it is doubtful that Iran will notice much immediate advantage from obtaining nuclear weapons.
Still, never let it be said that whatever it is that drives states to nuclear weaponize is a rational process. Meanwhile, Annie Tracy Samuel of the Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center writes:
Iran’s possession of a nuclear weapon would be a troubling and disturbing development. … However, there is reason to believe that Iran’s theoretical possession of a nuclear weapon would not profoundly alter the essence of its foreign policy [which] both before and after the 1979 revolution, has been largely pragmatic, particularly in action if not always in rhetoric.
As a disarmament advocate I’m incapable of acceding to the idea of yet another state acquiring/developing nuclear weapons. But, while it may be impossible to prove that nonproliferation is contingent upon us disarming, we have little recourse other than to try.