Nuclear Iran would dissuade Israeli pre-emptive strikes
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Limiting Israeli freedom of action. Israeli strategic culture places a high value on the ability to conduct retaliatory strikes for attacks against Israeli citi- zens, as well as to take preemptive action to prevent certain arms transfers that cross Israeli red lines. Already, the threat of escalating conflict has forced Israel to accept the transfer of certain precision- guided missiles, antiaircraft systems, and, report- edly, Scud ballistic missiles.81 But in the face of a nuclear-capable Iran, Israel might be forced to act with even greater caution in initiating preemptive or retaliatory strikes—given the potential of these strikes to escalate into a direct conflict with Iran.82 As a result, Hizballah and Hamas may feel more free to engage in low-level military actions against Israeli civilians, potentially including more frequent rocket attacks, targeted assassinations, or suicide bombings. Furthermore, an Iranian nuclear capabil- ity could induce Tehran or Syria to transfer increas- ing numbers of sophisticated weapons to Hizbal- lah or Hamas. A particularly dangerous escalation could involve the potential transfer to Hizballah of radiological dispersion devices (or “dirty bombs”) or even chemical weapons. While attempting such transfers would be provocative, Tehran might cal- culate that the psychological impact on the Israeli population and the deterrent effect on the Israeli military would be significant enough to warrant such risks.