Indeed, as strategist (and Nobel laureate) Thomas Schelling suggests, deterrence is about the only value the weapons might have for Iran. Such devices, he points out, "would be too precious to give away or to sell" and "too precious to waste killing people" when they could make other countries "hesitant to consider military action".
There is also an uncomfortable truth. If Iran wants to develop a nuclear weapon, the only way it can be effectively stopped is invasion and occupation, an undertaking that would make America's costly war in Iraq look like child's play. Indeed, because it can credibly threaten invaders with another and worse Iraq, Iran scarcely needs nuclear weapons to deter invasion. This fact might eventually dawn on its leaders.
Air strikes on Iran's nuclear facilities might temporarily set them back, but the country's most likely response would be to launch a truly dedicated effort to obtain a bomb, as Iraq's nuclear weapons budget was increased twenty-five-fold after its facilities were bombed by Israel in 1981. Moreover, Iran might well respond by seeking to make life markedly more difficult for US and Nato forces in neighbouring Afghanistan.