Conventional wisdom holds that it is in Iran’s near-term interest to calm tensions with the West, particularly the United States. But with those tensions now rising, it’s worth considering the dynamics at work in Tehran’s relationship with the rest of the world. In fact, the Iranian leadership’s incentives may run counter to our expectations, making a continuation or escalation of tensions more, not less, likely.
Iran’s long-term national interest is best served by developing nuclear weapons, which would fundamentally alter the strategic balance in the Middle East. A nuclear capability would allow Tehran to bully its neighbors and pursue its regional misadventures more aggressively by providing a credible deterrent against any American intervention to stop it. Thus, it is in Iran’s interest to play for time until its bomb program bears fruit. ...
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