To be sure, many of our finest Iran-watchers, including the great Bernard Lewis, believe that any future Iranian government, even a democratic one, is likely to continue the nuclear program…. But even if it is true, a democratic Iran will not be inclined to commit hara-kiri by launching a nuclear first strike against Israel, nor will it likely brandish its bombs against the United States.
True, but why would a non-democratic Iranian ruling class want to “commit hara-kiri” either? If you and your friends and family enjoyed the good fortune of owning a fairly big country like Iran and were looking forward to passing it on to your heirs unto the seventh generation, why would you turn your valuable property into a radioactive crater by “launching a nuclear first strike against Israel,” which is a Certified Tough Customer?
Gregory Cochran brings up another relevant question. When was the last time Iran started a war?
This can’t be right (can it?), but the last time I can find for a truly aggressive Iran was the first half of the 18th Century, under the reign of Nadir Shah (1688-1747), who attacked everybody nearby, including Turkey, Oman, and Afghanistan. In 1739, he invaded India, sacked Delhi, and brought home Shah Jehan’s Peacock Throne (whose gold and jewels were worth about $1 billion at today’s commodity prices) and the Koh-i-Noor diamond (now a 186 carat gem in the Tower of London).
Stalin, who grew up on the periphery of Persia and was a close student of its history considered Nadir Shah one of his two main historical role models, along with Ivan the Terrible. The Encyclopedia Britannica sums Nadir Shaw up:
In the end he was assassinated by his own troops while attempting to crush an uprising in Khorasan. Nadir Shah’s only interests were war and conquest. Once, when informed that there was no warfare in paradise, he remarked: “How then can there be any delights there?”
So, maybe if we read of the Iranians digging up Nadir Shah’s body and cloning his DNA, we’d better start actively worrying about them eventually “launching a nuclear first strike.”