Iran with Nuclear Weapons is an indispensable contribution to the discussion that should be taking place about Tehran's nuclear program and its logical endpoint: What might happen following the acquisition of an offensive nuclear capability by Iran, and how is the Iranian regime likely to behave as a result?
Through the use of three distinct behavioral models, Davis and Pfaltzgraff—respectively the executive vice president and president of the Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Institute for Foreign Policy Analysis—analyze how an Iran with nuclear weapons is likely to behave under adverse internal conditions (such as those that have prevailed since the country's fraudulent elections in June 2009); how a consolidated regime in Tehran might wield its nuclear deterrent; and how such an entity would weather external challenges to its regional position. What emerges is a sophisticated analysis predicated upon the idea of "alternative futures"—the understanding that Iran's behavior can and will be shaped in a number of different directions by the confluence of domestic and international drivers.
Through their meticulous, well researched, and logically reasoned analysis, Davis and Pfaltzgraff methodically map out a range of conceivable scenarios involving a nuclear, or nuclear-ready, Iran. Thus, they note that a "defensive" Iran, unsure of its international status, is likely to use its nascent nuclear capability to deter the United States from attempting regime change and Israel from employing military action against its nuclear facilities. An "aggressive Iran," by contrast, would employ its atomic arsenal to expand its regional influence, empower terrorist proxies, and decisively alter the regional correlation of strategic forces. Finally, in the event of an unstable Iran—one buffeted by protracted regime instability—control of Iran's nuclear capabilities is likely to emerge as a key domestic contest between competing political factions.
Such analysis has been sorely needed. By focusing overwhelmingly on Iran's effort to acquire a nuclear capability, scholars and academics alike have consciously chosen not to think about the unthinkable—that the Islamic Republic might actually succeed in getting the bomb. Davis and Pfaltzgraff have, and their assessment of potential Iranian behavior is likely to prove invaluable to U.S. national security decision-makers who should be thinking about the "day after" Iran goes nuclear, and what it will mean for U.S. policy. That day, after all, appears to be fast approaching.