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Cautious Iran

Tehran may want to 'wipe Israel off the map,' but it won't do it with nukes.

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In an effort to deter the international community from imposing sanctions against Iran, the mullahs are trying to instill fear in the Western capitals that if pushed to the wall, they will resort to extreme measures. Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei took the lead in stressing, "The Islamic Republic is prepared to transfer the experience, knowledge, and technology of its scientists." However, such statements have to be viewed in the context of Iran's maladroit attempts to fend off international pressure, as opposed to an actual willingness to share its nuclear know-how with its many terrorist allies.

There are a host of reasons to worry about a theocratic Iran armed with nuclear weapons. Secure in the knowledge that they could inflict horrific pain on adversaries that might dare to oppose their regional designs by force, Iran's mullahs would feel free to bully their Sunni neighbors, co-opt a weak Iraqi state, confront Israel, and severely complicate American military options. A nuclear Iran might also trigger a round of proliferation that would end with a volatile, economically vital region bristling with weapons of truly mass destruction. There is one reason, however, why we shouldn't worry about a nuclear Iran. The mullahs are not about to give their nukes away to terrorist groups.

Despite its routine designation by the State Department as the most active state sponsor of terrorism, Iran's terrorist activities today are largely confined to the Israeli-Palestinian arena. Gone are the heady days of the revolution when Iran subsidized militant groups plotting against the Gulf monarchies and dispatched assassination squads to murder dissidents abroad. Nonetheless, Tehran remains attached to the lethal Hizbullah, dubbed by former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage the "A-Team" of terrorism, and has done much to sustain both Hamas and Palestine's Islamic Jihad. Would Iran be tempted to offer its potential nuclear arsenal to such forces as they wage their campaigns against Israel?

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