Iran, under the leadership of the Mullahs and President Ahmadinejad are now poised to enter the game, thinking that they now have an advantage.
And that advantage is nuclear.
Victor Davis Hanson lays out the reality of the Iranian problem:
Its theocracy poses a danger to civilization even greater than a nuclear North Korea for a variety of peculiar circumstances. Iran is free of a patron like China that might in theory exert moderate influence or even insist on occasional restraint. North Korea, for an increasingly wealthy and capitalist China, is as much a headache and an economic liability as a socialist comrade.
In contrast, Iran is a cash cow for Russia (and China) and apparently a source of opportunistic delight in its tweaking of the West. Iranian petro-wealth has probably already earned Tehran at least one, and probably two, favorable votes at the Security Council.
Of course, Tehran’s oil revenues allow it access to weapons markets, and overt blackmail, both of which are impossible for a starving North Korea. And Iran’s nuclear facilities are located at the heart of the world’s petroleum reserves, where even the semblance of instability can drive up global oil prices, costing the importing world billions in revenues.
No one is flocking to Communism, much less Pyongyang’s unrepentant, ossified Stalinist brand. Islamic radicalism, on the other hand, has declared war on Western society and tens of thousands of jihdadists, whether Shiia or Sunnis, count on Iran for money, sanctuary, and support. Al Qaeda members travel the country that is the spiritual godhead of Hezbollah, and a donor of arms and money to radical Palestinian terrorists.
North Korea can threaten Taiwan, Japan, South Korea, and the western United States, and so poses a real danger. But the opportunities for havoc are even richer for a nuclear Iran. With nukes and an earned reputation for madness, it can dictate to the surrounding Arab world the proper policy of petroleum exportation; it can shakedown Europeans whose capitals are in easy missile range; it can take out Israel with a nuke or two; or it can bully the nascent democracies of the Middle East while targeting tens of thousands of US soldiers based from Afghanistan to the Persian Gulf.
And Iran can threaten to do all this under the aegis of a crazed Islamist regime more eager for the paradise of the next world than for the material present so dear to the affluent and decadent West. If Iran can play brinkmanship now on just the promise of nuclear weapons, imagine its roguery to come when it is replete with them.
Hanson goes on to outline four strategies for dealing with it, which unfortunately range from bad to worse.
Whatever way you think about it, the situation with Iran has brought the world to the brink of another war. The situation cannot be ignored; and yet,no matter how it is dealt with, it must inevitably lead to very unpleasant consequences in the world.
I have no great hopes for the UN Security Council and multilateral action. The world is far too dependent on the "alpha male" nations in the community to take care of these kind of problems so that the rest of them don't have to dirty their hands; and can stand back and haughtily criticize any and all outcomes.
Even within the U.S. the idea of a bipartisan concensus to give the Iranian leaders a clear and unified message seems unlikely given the Democrats obseesion to return to power and their belief (false, I think) that the only way to do this is to oppose anything that George Bush would like to do--regardless of the national interest.
The international community mucked around with sanctions on a blowhard like Saddam for over a decade--and what did it get them? If we thought Saddam was a lying, immoral thug with delusions of grandeur and WMDs to act on them; we can multiply that assessment by a factor of ten when dealing with a Saddam-like clone whose delusions are even more extreme and with a religious foundation to boot. And this fanatic's desire for WMD's is not in question (yet, anyway; after he is thwarted, who knows what some people will convince themselves was the case?). Ahmadinejad can't be deterred because it is his earnest desire to die gloriously and go to his maker-- and he doesn't care who he takes with him. Saddam didn't mind killing others, but he always planned to save his own neck; and I'm sure he always intended that he would come out of any confrontation alive and triumphant.
Is it to be war then?
If so, then I would suggest that, when economic sanctions fail to have an impact, and before we take the step of destroying the disseminated nuclear facilities, the primary targets of military action should be Ahmadinejad and the Mullahs themselves. This could be called "aggressive regime change,"
As long as they are in charge of decision-making in Iran, they will almost certainly not bend to any international sanctions or reprimands; nor are they likely to alter their planned course of action. This is their jihad and they are as serious about it as any suicide bomber. From their point of view, better that the whole world go up in flames than they disobey what they imagine their god wants them to do.
There is always the hope that the desires of the Iranian people do not march in lock-step with those of their irrational leaders, and that once the religious psychopaths are out of the picture, self-preservation--if not reason--will reassert itself.
Americans should reflect carefully on Hanson's stark conclusion:
...the public must be warned that dealing with a nuclear Iran is not a matter of a good versus a bad choice, but between a very bad one now and something far, far worse to come.