Maintaining Perspective on Iran

[U.S. News] Fouad Ajami - Mixing bravado and bluff, and granting proxies in Palestine and Lebanon, the leaders of the Iranian theocracy appear to have succeeded in spreading the image of a mighty power able to have its way in the world. For some, that great arc stretching from the Persian Gulf to the Mediterranean is now a battleground between Pax Americana and the Persians. This belief is in part due to the abdication of the Arab states, their virtual absence from the contest of nations. Iran is a radical player in the world of states, but we should not overstate its power. We should not fall for the Persian bluff. It is important that we do all we can to thwart Iran's nuclear ambitions and to checkmate it in arenas that count, but we should always remember that this is a society swimming against the tide of history and confronting the limits of its capabilities. The Iranians dwell virtually alone in the House of Islam, separated by language and culture, marked by their Shiism. Iran's deranged president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, came into power promising to put Iran's oil wealth "on the dinner table." But the Iranian economy is on the ropes. The price of bread and meat and basic commodities has risen by as much as 25 percent. A society that spends $20 billion a year to subsidize the price of energy, electricity, and gasoline will in the end have to contend with the wrath and disappointment of its people. There is swagger in Iran, and there is menace, for its rulers are without scruples. Terrorism, for them, is always an option. But theirs is a vulnerable and brittle society. There is no need to "engage" them and bail them out as they stumble. The regime should be harassed, contained, and held to account.

2007-02-28 01:00:00

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