Global pressure continues to mount on Iran. You would think this would make it more difficult for them to justify the nuclear program to the Iranian people. The economy is straining and the sanctions are increasingly biting, but Russia and China, as well as Iranian puppet regimes, have been complicit in keeping the country afloat. The threat of military reprisal has kept the population at bay.
For there to be a peaceful outcome, the Ayatollahs will have to make the calculation that a nuclear program is not worth the costs, or that they won’t be able to placate the people. I do not see that happening. They look at North Korea a model—once it got nukes then the world had to take it seriously in a whole new way. The Ayatollahs currently look at the nuclear capability as an insurance card. A nuclear Iran will have no natural deterrent in the region. Russia is an ally of circumstance, and presents no threat. Iraq has been neutered and many of the highest officials are on the Iranian payroll. Afghanistan, and all the ‘stans for that matter, are a non-issue. Turkey is surprisingly disengaged. Israel will have to finally have to come out of the closet about its own nuclear arsenal just to ensure mutual annihilation.
The Iranian mentality is one of pride. They still think they are ancient Persia, the smartest, most advanced, greatest people in the world. Even if they never use the nukes, they will use them to bully their neighbors. They do not care about the West or Israel, and will attempt to act with impunity waving their nuclear Sword of Damocles.
The one hope outside of Israel stopping the Ayatollahs, and that is the people of Iran themselves. They made a half-hearted attempt with the Green Revolution in 2009, but unlike their brothers in revolution throughout the Middle East and Africa, they did not have the courage to see it through and do whatever it took to overthrow their government. Maybe they will look within themselves and unleash that pride and passion on their own despotic government rather than allow it set the entire Middle East aflame in nuclear fires. It would be a brutal and bloody civil war, but only then can the Iranian people deliver themselves (without Western or Israeli aid) from the evil their fathers inadvertent delivered the sons and daughters into when they replaced a terrible and corrupt Shah with a more corrupt, hypocritical, and unjust, theocracy.