Nuclear Iran would undermine credibility of NPT and U.S. counter-proliferation efforts
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There are three ways in which the United States’ Iran policy could negatively affect the international nonproliferation regime. First, U.S. policies could fail, and Iran could develop nuclear weapons. Such an outcome could undermine international respect and support for the NPT, and—more importantly—weaken U.S. credibility and the credibility of its counter-proliferation efforts. The United States has already strongly committed itself to preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, and has made a point not to take any options off the table in order to do so.61 If Iran crosses that red line and the United States fails to act, other states could well conclude that the U.S. commitment to stopping the spread of nuclear weapons is a paper tiger, and that the United States is not willing to risk expending blood and treasure to prevent an adversary from acquiring a nuclear arsenal. Indeed, the United States has already found itself in this position with North Korea, which has twice tested nuclear weapons despite similar opposition from the United States.
The nonproliferation regime is under a lot of stress after 40+ years of attempting to prevent a wave of nuclear proliferation. With the international community unable to prevent North Korea from successfully obtaining a nuclear weapon, some experts are concerned that if Iran goes nuclear, it would push the regime over the tipping point.