The Mullah Menace
Question: What's the most dangerous geopolitical development in the 21st century? Answer: Iran's emergence as the Middle East regional superpower. Why? Because it places the center of the world's increasingly stretched energy resources more and more under the influence of an oil-rich, fundamentalist, pro-terrorist, anti-Semitic regime that has not only nuclear ambitions but the means to realize them.
Iran's malign hand now reaches directly into southern Iraq, to Syria, to Hezbollah in Lebanon, to Hamas in the West Bank, and to the shores of the Mediterranean. Iran's long shadow now casts a deepening pall over the Sunni Arab countries of the region, including Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Kuwait, and the United Arab Emirates. All the Sunni gulf states have sizable Shiite populations, which Iran could turn against them. And what once promised to be a seed for democracy in the despotic Middle East, a new free state of Iraq, has betrayed every hope in an increasingly violent religious schism aggravated by Iranian meddling. The elections in Iraq led not to collaboration between different ethnic and religious groups but to a Shiite majority with a mandate to introduce what is, in effect, a radical Islamic republic. The south of Iraq is now an Iranian quasi protectorate, with police and local militias controlled by Tehran. No longer a traditional bulwark against Iranian expansion and influence, Iraq is in a dizzying downward spiral that has left Iran the undisputed champion of political Islam.
In Iraq, Iranian agents back the anti-American Shiite cleric Moqtada al Sadr. His ambition is to take over from the moderate Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, who is suffering from heart trouble, and to swing the Shiites fully behind Iran and the Iranian-backed terrorists in Iraq. Now there is talk of negotiating with Iran (and Syria) to join us in creating stability in Iraq. We should expect little help from them.
Death and destruction. Look at the nature of the beast. It has hardly been talking peace. It has intensified its murderous anti-Semitic, anti-Israel rhetoric and reiterated its long-held position that the Middle East should be entirely Islamic, stripped of all western influence.
The clock of military danger is superfast digital; the clock of diplomacy is 20th-century analog. All the West's diplomatic efforts have failed to induce Iran to refrain from developing nuclear weapons, which it contendsutterly unconvincinglythat it is not doing. Europe has been supportive, but Russia and China are playing both sides at the United Nations. Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, meanwhile, gleefully heaps scorn on the world body: "We are guided by what the Hidden Imam tells us, not by what you dictate in your resolutions."
Some say we should accept that Iran will become a nuclear power and seek consolation in the doctrine of mutual deterrence that worked in the Cold War. Such advice fails to account for the vehemence of the religious and ideological fanaticism that motivates Iran. Think of a country where thousands of young Iranian Shiites volunteered in the Iran-Iraq War (1980-88) to charge across Iraqi minefields, knowing they would die. There may be hundreds of thousandseven millionswilling to join suicide brigades. The fundamental assumption of mutual deterrencethat both sides value their livessimply doesn't apply here.