Nuclear Iran would be able to Increase its Support to Terrorist Groups in Iraq and Elsewhere
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From a U.S. point of view, Iran would be harder to coerce on two key issues: Iraq and support for terrorism. As noted above, Iran understands how potent the U.S. military can be and has avoided a direct confrontation for two decades. Though Iran remains one of the world's top supporters of terrorism, it has placed limits on its proxies as well as bolstered them. In addition, Iran has supported an array of groups in Iraq linked to violence, but it has so far refrained from unleashing its full power for subversion. Although Iran has provided training and weapons to an array of militia groups, many of which have at times attacked the United States, Iranian leaders have encouraged various Iraqi Shi'a groups to participate in U.S.-backed elections and reconstruction efforts. As Persian Gulf security expert Kenneth Pollack contends, "Although we may not necessarily like all of the same people in Iraq, on balance, Iran has so far been more helpful in advancing the causes of stability and democracy in Iraq than it has been harmful."1A nuclear Iran may continue with this mid-level support for terrorists or other anti-U.S. forces, but it might also decide to step up its backing of terrorists and anti-U.S. groups in Iraq, confident that the United States would be afraid to retaliate because of Iran's nuclear program.
While Iran has overtly been supporting terrorist groups for decades, they have been careful to moderate their support to avoid inviting massive retaliation by either the U.S. or Israel. However, once they have acquired nuclear weapons, these "red lines" will most likely shift as they are able to deter a greater level of attack.