In his introduction to the September 2002 National Security Strategy of the United States, President George W. Bush wrote, “The gravest danger our Nation faces lies at the crossroads of radicalism and technology. Our enemies have openly declared that they are seeking weapons of mass destruction (WMD), and evidence indicates that they are doing so with determination. . . . Terrorists are organized to penetrate open societies and to turn the power of modern technologies against us.”
Iran is the poster-child for the nexus of terrorism and WMD. It is the world's foremost state-sponsor of terrorism, as well as one of the countries most actively pursuing nuclear weapons. Washington is vigilant about Iran's support for a network of Islamist terrorist organizations and persistent in pressing Iran to end its financial, political, material, and operational support to them. At the same time, the United States has to come up with effective strategies to ensure that Iran does not acquire nuclear weapons. Were Iran to acquire nuclear weapons, there is a grave risk it would be tempted to provide them to terrorists. After all, mass casualty terrorism done by proxies has worked well for Iran to date. Iranian assistance to the terrorists who blew up the U.S. and French barracks in Beirut in 1983 was a grand strategic success, forcing the United States, and for a while France, out of Lebanon while not bringing any retaliation down on Iran. Similarly, the 1996 bombing of the Khobar Towers barracks in Saudi Arabia caused the Saudis to make a strategic reconciliation, and, once again, Iran faced no retaliation.
The fear about what Iran might do with nuclear weapons is fed by the concern that Tehran has no clear reason to be pursuing nuclear weapons. The strategic rationale for Iran's nuclear program is by no means obvious. Unlike proliferators such as Israel or Pakistan, Iran faces no historic enemy who would welcome an opportunity to wipe the state off the face of the earth. Iran is encircled by troubled neighbors, but nuclear weapons do nothing to help counter the threats that could come from state collapse in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, or Azerbaijan. Instead, Iranian acquisition of nuclear