But for decades, the primary impetus to a nuclear arms race in the region has been Israel, which probably had an atom bomb by about 1970. It was helped behind the scenes by France and Britain– which actively proliferated nuclear weapons to Israel.
It was Israel’s bomb that, in part, impelled Iraq to go for broke. Iraq’s nuclear weapons program of the 1980s in turn convinced some in Iran that Iran needed at least a nuclear break-out capacity if two of its enemies were going to have bombs. Since Israel destroyed an Iraqi light water reactor, OSIRAK, in 1981 (which had been built by the French and could not easily have been used to produce fissile material), when Iran began its experiments in uranium enrichment, it kept them secret lest Tel Aviv send out F-14s.
Ideally, the whole Middle East should be an atomic bomb- free region. The area has enough horrible problems without a weapon of mass destruction. But the UN Security Council has treated Israel very differently from the way they treated Iran. For centuries, Europeans have been held to different standards and different rules than have peoples of the Global South. Israel as a “European” country was allowed to get a nuclear bomb, indeed was helped to do so, and no sanctions were ever applied to it. Iran was targeted for economic warfare just for having an enrichment program.