The alarm goes off. A sharp elbow in the back informs you the snooze timer's gone off for the second time. Grumbling through the sleepy haze, you fumble for the remote and flip on the television. Lying in bed, you await the standard fare of mindless morning chit-chat intermingled with the local forecast and traffic report. Rudely, you're aroused from your foggy semi-consciousness as a reporter states that both the US Geological Survey and sources in the Pentagon have confirmed that Iran has successfully tested a nuclear weapon. Seismic data indicates the test occurred in the Dasht-e Lut, a desert region of salt flats located in Iran's southeastern Kerman province. This coincides with video of the test site released by the government in Tehran. As golden slumbers blissfully filled your eyes, a phone rang in the White House residence. With it, the President received the dreaded 3AM call that Hillary Clinton had clairvoyantly prognosticated during the 2008 primaries. In similar fashion to your own, the Commander-In-Chief was shocked out of his serene repose with news that the world had a new upstart and unwelcome member of the nuclear club - Iran. As unsettling as it may be, many intelligence analysts believe this scenario may well play out sometime over the next 18 to 24 months. In the interim, there is a growing consensus among Conservative commentators and pundits that Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons is driven by a virulent anti-Israelism and aspirations of regional hegemony. However, a closer look beyond the apocalyptic rhetoric reveals a chorus of neorealist historical and geopolitical forces compelling the mullahs to the mastery and weaponization of the atom. Among them are.... Nationalism - With it's roots firmly set in antiquity as one of the world's oldest civilizations, there is a great sense of cultural and historical pride among Iranians, particularly the dominant Persians. There is, however, a sense that Iran does not enjoy a concomitant level of respect and influence in the international arena. Accordingly, many believe that mastery of nuclear energy and possession of even a limited nuclear arsenal are a means to an end. The rationale is predicated on the belief that by joining the elite few that are counted among the members of the globe's nuclear club, Iran will gain the respect, prestige and status commensurate with it's historical significance. Religion - Looking at the world and national security through the prism of faith, the Shia mullahs of the regime find themselves politically isolated and strategically disadvantaged. A minority among the Muslim ummah, Iran views itself as the political guardian of the Shia faithful. Though it's influence has grown significantly in the wake of the removal of it's nemesis, Saddam Hussein, Tehran still finds itself located in a region populated by Sunni-dominated antagonists. Despite talk of a burgeoning "Shia Crescent", Iran remains isolated in the Muslim political world as the lone defender of what the Sunni majority view as the apostate followers of the martyred Imam Hussain. Furthermore, the mullahs find themselves to be at a strategic disadvantage in the religious/philosophical realm. Gazing across the globe, they see Christian (United States, Great Britain, France and Russia), Jewish (Israel), Hindu (India), Confucian (China), Atheist (North Korea) and Sunni (Pakistan) nuclear powers. Again, they find themselves alone in a neighborhood teeming with a nuclear-armed Jewish state to the west, Sunni and Hindu bombs to the east and Christian bombs deployed via warships on their doorstep in the Persian Gulf. Despite Ayatollah Khomeini's condemnation of nuclear weapons, there are factions within the regime that believe ultimate security for the Shia and the Islamic Republic can only be found in the ultimate weapon. Distrust of the international community - In spite of international conventions forbidding their use, Saddam Hussein nonetheless unleashed chemical weapons on Iran over the course of the bloody Iran-Iraq War in the '80s. At the time, Saddam was seen as the Sunni bulwark against the spread of Khomeini's Shia revolution and the potential dangers it posed to the lifeblood of the West's industrialized economies - oil. Consequently, Iran's Gulf neighbors and the West gave their tacit approval of the Butcher of Baghdad's blatant war crimes through their silence. Adding to the antipathy between Iran and it's Gulf neighbors is the fact that much of Saddam's war efforts were underwritten by billions of dollars in loans from such Sunni stalwarts as Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. In addition to it's complacence in response to Saddam's aggression, the international community's inconsistency and hypocrisy on nuclear weapons fuels Tehran's paranoia and distrust. Israel hides it's nuclear arsenal behind the shield of "strategic ambiguity" and America's veto in the UN Security Council. Meanwhile, nuclear pariahs Pakistan and India are rehabilitated and embraced by the United States once they serve Washington's strategic interests. Yet, the US has aggressively and repeatedly prodded the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to refer Iran to the Security Council for sanction. In tandem with it's dogged hounding of the IAEA, Washington also made multiple attempts to peal off Iran's defenders on the Security Council, Russia and China. The objective, to expose the regime to stiffer, broad-based sanctions, was seen as a necessary step that must be taken prior to any military action the US might eventually feel compelled to take. All of this adds up to a distrust of the international community that has become an article of political faith among the ranks of the regime. Regime Survival - The primary objective of the regime - and any government, for that fact - is survival and continuity. In prioritizing existential threats, the United States is easily at the top of Tehran's list. America alone enjoys a unique combination of both conventional and strategic assets and capabilities, many of which are currently deployed around Iran's borders. With troops in excess of 100,000 in Iraq and Afghanistan, bases on the Arabian side of the Gulf and carrier battle groups routinely patrolling both the Persian Gulf and Gulf of Oman, Iran finds itself virtually surrounded by American forces. That's not even mentioning the fact that American B-2 Spirit strategic bombers can reach the heart of the Islamic Republic from their home bases in Kansas. Should follow-on strikes be required, America's arsenal of naval and air-launched Tomahawk cruise missiles allow her the ability to attack Iran from a distance with minimal exposure to harm for her own forces. Facing this imposing array of assets and capabilities, Tehran has become an ardent student of recent history. Saddam Hussein, maintaining "strategic ambiguity" about weapons of mass destruction, found himself toppled from power in a flurry of America's "shock and awe" military might. His sons cut to pieces in a firefight with personnel from the 101st Airborne Division, Saddam was eventually captured hiding unceremoniously in the dirt of a spider hole and met Allah at the end of a hangman's noose. Meanwhile, the incessant provocations and belligerent saber-rattling of North Korea's Kim Jong-il merits little more than nervous chatter and hollow condemnations. Why? The answer is simplicity itself - nuclear weapons. The lesson is clear. Those who do not possess nuclear weapons leave themselves at Washington's not-so-tender mercies; those that do possess them keep America at bay and are bombarded by angry condemnations instead of laser-guided bombs. Though the December 2007 National Intelligence Estimate found that Iran suspended it's nuclear research program following America's 2003 invasion of Iraq, it is generally believed to have been aggressively restarted in the wake of Washington's rebuff of what appeared to be a tentative overture for reconciliation from Tehran. In a fit of imperial hubris, the Bush administration then embarked on a term-long two-pronged program that included an ineffective and ultimately insincere diplomatic track in conjunction with repeated bellicose calls for regime change. With Bush's words ringing in their ears and images of Saddam's inglorious final moments in this world fresh in their minds, the mullahs have taken his bitter lesson to heart. The Islamic Republic will endure and the American juggernaut will be held at bay through the power of the atom. Regime survivability through modern technology, faithful readers. Stay tuned for further updates as events warrant and a President earnestly hopes to never be roused from his blissful slumber by a 3AM call.