Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. (Courtesy Reuters)
ONE STEP TOO FAR
Colin H. Kahl
Kenneth Waltz is probably right that a nuclear-armed Iran could be deterred from deliberately using nuclear weapons or transferring a nuclear device to terrorists ("Why Iran Should Get the Bomb," July/August 2012). But he is dead wrong that the Islamic Republic would likely become a more responsible international actor if it crossed the nuclear threshold. In making that argument, Waltz mischaracterizes Iranian motivations and badly misreads history. And despite the fact that Waltz is one of the world's most respected international relations theorists, he ignores important political science research into the effects of nuclear weapons, including recent findings that suggest that new nuclear states are often more reckless and aggressive at lower levels of conflict.
RATIONAL BUT DANGEROUS
Waltz correctly notes that Iran's leaders, despite their fanatical rhetoric, are fundamentally rational. Because Iran's leadership is not suicidal, it is highly unlikely that a nuclear-armed Iran would deliberately use a nuclear device or transfer one to terrorists. Yet even though the Islamic Republic is rational, it is still dangerous, and it is likely to become even more so if it develops nuclear weapons.
Iran's government currently
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