Iran's first-world pretensions hark back to an ancient era, when the Persian Empire was the indispensable nation of its day. It is the sense of national purpose, of national mission – this heady exceptionalism – that today imbues aspirations in Iran, just as it has throughout the much shorter history of the US.
Here lies Iran's steadfast insistence on pursuing its nuclear ambitions, for example – which it claims are limited to peaceful nuclear energy, not bombs. Here, too, is one root of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's claims that Iran is a superpower that has enabled the "collapse" of Western capitalism.
The words of President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1936 ring as true in Iranian ears as they have for Americans.