The contradiction within this account is not hard to see. There is a striking disproportion between Thompson's minimization of the sources of exterminism and his maximization of its spread. The discrepancy between the two parts of the argument is covered by the notion of the "isomorphism" of East and West. Exterminism, from such small beginnings, can be so total and universal because the two sides need it to batten down their own respective social hatches. There is thus a kind of over-arching external causality at work, which can act as a substitute for any more articulated internal explanation. Thompson does not argue that the USSR and USA are identical social formations, or even that their foreign policies are precisely equivalent. Rather it is the reciprocity of their antagonism itself which confers on each their common deadly properties, as ruling groups in Washington and Moscow, the twin citadels of exterminism, come "to need perpetual war crisis, to legitimate their rule." So long as this reciprocal process holds fast, "isomorphic replication is evident at every level: in cultural, political, but, above all, in ideological life."
This nonnefarious explanation is much easier to take seriously now that an agreement has been reached and adhered to. In truth, the US still does not know what Tehran’s nuclear intentions were and how they may have evolved. Iranians’ views on critical questions are no less divided than are Americans’. Some members of Tehran’s leadership may have wanted Iran to be a nuclear weapons state. Others may have wanted to get just to the brink without crossing over—the so-called Japan option. A definitive choice may never have been made. US intelligence concluded in 2007, and reaffirmed twice thereafter, that Iran had abandoned its weapons program some years earlier. Perhaps nuclear weapons were the goal until the price imposed by worldwide sanctions got too high.