Consider that, in December 2001, former Iranian President Hashemi Rafsanjani explained that “the use of even one nuclear bomb inside Israel will destroy everything.” On the other hand, if Israel responded with its own nuclear weapons, it “will only harm the Islamic world. It is not irrational to contemplate such an eventuality.” Rafsanjani thus spelled out a macabre cost-benefit analysis. It might not be possible to destroy Israel without suffering retaliation. But, for Islam, the level of damage Israel could inflict is bearable–only 100,000 or so additional martyrs for Islam.
And Rafsanjani is a member of the moderate, pragmatic wing of the Iranian Revolution; he believes that any conflict ought to have a “worthwhile” outcome. Ahmadinejad, by contrast, is predisposed toward apocalyptic thinking. In one of his first TV interviews after being elected president, he enthused: “Is there an art that is more beautiful, more divine, more eternal than the art of the martyr’s death?” In September 2005, he concluded his first speech before the United Nations by imploring God to bring about the return of the Twelfth Imam. He finances a research institute in Tehran whose sole purpose is to study, and, if possible, accelerate the coming of the imam. And, at a theology conference in November 2005, he stressed, “The most important task of our Revolution is to prepare the way for the return of the Twelfth Imam.”
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