Hitler, by his own account, acted out of fear: fear that the German economy would collapse under the burden of his military expansion, and fear that he “could be replaced at any moment.” I quoted this speech in a 2005 essay, adding, “Within a generation, both Iran’s oil and demographic resources will be exhausted. Impending demographic collapse, I have argued in the past, impels Iran towards an imperial design (Demographics and Iran’s imperial design, September 13). Iran’s elderly dependent population will soar to nearly 30% from just 7% today by mid-century, the consequence of the country’s collapsing birth rate. The demographic disaster will hit just as oil exports dry up during the 2020s. To break out of the trap, Iran must make an all-or-nothing bet during the present generation.”

Just like Hitler, Iran has nothing to lose. Hitler was convinced that the Aryan race was doomed to corruption and extinction unless he restored its preeminence by force; Ahmadinejad knows with certainty that Persian will become an extinct language in a few generations given the present fertility trend. The UN’s “medium variant” forecast for Iran puts the present fertility rate at just 1.59 (which means about 1.35 for Persian-speakers given the higher fertility of Iran’s minorities), and the “low variant” at just 1.34. That’s as low as the baby-bust European countries. Iran is dying a slow death. In my book (How Civilizations Die) I report the horror and panic among Iran’s rulers over its prospective extinction.

What Hitler imagined in his nightmares, Ahmadinejad fears in the full light of day. Hitler told his commanders in August 1939 that they had nothing to lose; Ahmadinejad knows with certainty that he has nothing to lose.