1) Iran sees itself as a great power in the Middle East, exercising a kind of natural regional hegemony. Ray Takeyh has a great opinion piece explaining this ambition. To quote from the piece:
- "More than any other Middle Eastern nation, Iran has always imagined itself as the natural hegemon of its neighborhood. As the Persian empire shrank over the centuries and Persian culture faded with the arrival of more alluring Western mores, Iran’s exaggerated view of itself remained largely intact. By dint of history, Iranians believe that their nation deserves regional preeminence."
|US Military Bases in the Middle East|
3) Finally, given the unrest in Iran after the elections in 2009 and continued flagging support for the regime, Iran sees the attainment of nuclear weapons as a way to increase its popular support among the masses. Indeed, it is well worth noting that Iran's quest to go nuclear started not after the Islamic Revolution in 1979, but during the reign of the Shah prior to that. In this context, Iran's current nuclear program can be seen in the context of a long-standing drive predating the Islamic Revolution. Do read this piece - a facinating interview from 2008 with the Shah's former chief atomic energy adviser.