I am no expert, but what little I do know leads me to believe there are a lot of distinctions to be made in all of this.
Many, if not most of the Iranian Mullahs who are in power, are really businessmen more than anything else. They will not risk getting nuked or impoverished, no matter what. But they are very good political poker players and have very large ambitions.
Many, if not most, of the suicide bombers are nut cases or people on the wrong end of the “honor/shame” system that pervades at least Middle Eastern Islam. Remember that the Columbine killers killed themselves and others for no reason at all other than their own nutty fantasies and general hostility to others. You don’t see Nasrallah or Bin Ladin blowing themselves up in order to murder some Israeli schoolchildren. No, indeed. They get the nuts and the “shamed” to do that.
Many, probably most, of the big terrorist leaders are motivated by a lust for power, and not much more. (In Iran, of course, as is seemingly the case in Palestine too, it’s also money.)
Nobody is safe. If a popular leader like King Hussein in Jordan was, had to be watchful against assassination every minute of every day, no one else is safe either. So, if you’re a “moderate muslim” you stay out of “the game” and live with your head down. This makes the establishment of security, other than by ruthless and arbitrary extermination of perceived enemies, exceedingly difficult.
With its traditions of Jihad, Sharia law and dhimmitude, anyone who lusts for power has, in Islamic places, excellent tools at hand for the elimination of the opposition and the domination of the remainder, far beyond what would be available to some western dictator.
It always puts me to mind of L.A. with a police force of 20 ill-trained and ill-armed men. The place would be totally dominated by the gangs, and always at war.
Islamic terrorism is like a horrid combination of Bolshevik methodology, huge financial resources, gang mentality and just plain craziness that exists among some in all societies, all justified by an interpretation of a religion that can lend itself to the employment of the very worst methodologies and instincts of mankind.
In my opinion, whatever it’s worth, the best thing the West could do is have so many soldiers and so many special force units in Iraq that a mouse couldn’t move without them knowing it and stepping on the mouse. After years and years of that, just maybe non-extremists would eventually decide that the extremists don’t really rule the universe after all. Certainly, many Iraqis would resent foreign occupation and particularly by “infidels”. But in another part of their minds, they would welcome the peace it would bring. This is incredibly “politically incorrect”, but 18th century India was a nightmare of murder, despotism and warfare until the Brits just simply sat on them long enough to teach them other ways, paying no attention to their nationalistic or regional aspirations or their religious antipathies. I will get jumped on for saying this, but the big problem with western colonialism was that it didn’t last long enough in most places. You can’t call it colonialism now, but there is just no pacifier quite as effective as giving a people no alternative but to live peacefully. And overwhelming, patient force gives no alternative. But, as the demise of colonialism (and the recent Democrat victory) proved, the west no longer has the appetite to supply it.