Iran's reluctance to share its biological weapons arsenal with terrorist proxies suggests they view this as illegitimate and could be further convinced
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In the specific case of nuclear Iran, delegitimization might be tailored against both Tehran and its proxies. It is telling, for starters, that though it retains chemical and biological weapons, Iran has never shared these unconventional capabilities with its proxies. It may have refrained from doing so out of fear of incurring U.S. or Israeli wrath or because it stood to gain little strategic advantage, but it is also possible that Iran’s restraint was based on ideological, normative, or religious rationales. There are accounts, for instance, that Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei issued a secret religious fatwa citing “Koranic principles that constrain the use” of nuclear weapons.95 Byman adds that Iran is unlikely to provide nuclear weapons to terrorists because “these weapons are widely seen as heinous, potentially de-legitimating both the group and its state sponsor.”96 Their use in terrorism will not only invite retaliation against Iran, but also widespread scorn against Iran’s mullahs, the wider Shia community, and Islam more broadly. Defenders might also manipulate self- restraints by communicating how certain actions contradict religious tenets and social expectations. Lewis Dunn contends that nuclear terrorism “does have the potential of provoking revulsion”—instead of praise—“among the very communities that Osama bin Laden is seeking to rally.” If so, finding ways to “heighten concerns” among terrorist leaders that WMD attacks will “provoke a backlash” among Muslims, might influence their decision to acquire and use such weapons.97 That a nuclear terrorist attack on Israel or the U.S. is likely to kill scores of innocent Muslims might give some perpetrators reason to pause. The global outrage following a nuclear terrorist strike is likely to be palpable among all religious communities. And as Colin Gray explains, “terrorists lose when their outrages delegitimze their political causes.”98 Nuclear self-restraints and taboos exist in interstate relations. In thinking about deterring nuclear Iran and nuclear terrorism, it is worth exploring whether or not a similar set of self-restraints might also be established among state sponsors of terrorism and their nonstate proxies.