The overreaction of Israel, the United States, and others to the possibility of Iran’s developing a nuclear weapons capability stems from the two scenarios they foresee. The first envisions Iran transferring a nuclear weapon to a terrorist group which would then use it against Israel. The second suggests that Iran itself would attack Israel. If Iran were to become a nuclear power, neither of these two possibilities is realistic.
If Iran were to transfer a weapon to a terrorist organization, that would be to give some other group a blank check, the cashing of which would imperil Iran’s own future. The American, Israeli, and broader international reaction to nuclear terrorism is an outcome the Iranians do not care to contemplate. No government wants its existence controlled by another party. Fear of probable consequences applies to an Iranian nuclear action against Israel, resulting in an international response even greater than a terrorist attack. Iranian leaders are not suicidal.
The catastrophic outcomes of the two scenarios are not the primary reason for neither occurring. Rather, any conceivable nuclear action against Israel would cause the deaths of relatively as many Arab/Muslims as Jewish Israelis. Arabs constitute about 20% of the Israeli population and are dispersed throughout the country. In addition, the Palestinian population of Gaza and the West Bank could not be excluded from the probable casualties. The tiny geographical size of Israel and the occupied territories renders a discriminate attack, targeting Jews only, an impossibility.
If Iran were to decide to join the nuclear club, that decision would be based on the perception of achieving several advantages: enhancing its regional and international stature and ensuring the respect of its interests. Equally important, possessing a nuclear capacity can be a matter of national prestige. Acquiring a nuclear capacity could demonstrate Iran’s technological and scientific proficiency and its immunity from international pressure. Actually using those devices serves none of these objectives.