Like most totalitarian regimes, Iran’s leadership is concerned first and foremost with self-preservation and survival. President Ahmadinejad and Grand Ayatollah Khamenei may like to maintain the revolutionary national creation myth by defying the West. Yet in the final analysis, both men surely understand that the deployment of an Iranian nuclear weapon would take away the things they value most. Ahmadinejad would lose his power and, in all likelihood, his life. The Grand Ayatollah, if he survived, would watch the nation and cause central to his self-concept succumb to his archenemies.
Although it is a fairly advanced country with sophisticated technology, Iran has a very weak economy. Despite substantial oil resources, its refining capacity has so deteriorated under incompetent, socialistic leadership that it must import gasoline. Its army, navy and air force are laughably overmatched by not only their American counterparts, but also the experienced, thoroughly modern Israel Defense Forces. The United States has a nuclear arsenal and Israel is widely believed to have one too. A full-scale war with either country, particularly a nuclear war, would be so devastating that Iran has every incentive to avoid one. If Iran totally wiped out Israel, the United States would presumably respond by totally wiping out Iran. And attacking us directly would be suicide.
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