The Persian Puzzle by Kenneth M. Pollack
In the eyes of many Middle Easterners, Iran today seems to be on a roll. While other regimes (the Syrians, the Saudis, the Egyptians) are perceived throughout the area as inextricably mired in corruption, Islamic heterodoxy, or political impotence, Iran’s Shiite mullahs have maintained an image of integrity, piety—and power. There is much to sustain that image. From Damascus, which increasingly takes its directions from Tehran, to Bahrain and the eastern province of Saudi Arabia, where Shiite majorities seethe, Iranian influence is growing. Through its Lebanese proxy, Hizballah, the Islamic Republic has placed some 10,000 Katyusha rockets along Israel’s northern border and (according to Israeli intelligence) has orchestrated almost two-thirds of all recent terrorist attacks from the West Bank and Gaza. Finally, over the past two years, Iranian leaders have leaned back and watched as the United States—the Great Satan—has eliminated two of their most pernicious rivals, the Taliban and Saddam Hussein. And even in the new Iraq, the American aim of facilitating democratic elections will enable Shiites to dominate that country to an extent unimaginable in the days of Ayatollah Khomeini.
All of these accomplishments, impressive in themselves, may yet pale beside Iran’s nuclear-weapons program, which, even the most skeptical observers predict, can be operational within two years. Borne by advanced Shihab missiles, Iranian warheads will be capable of hitting not only Israel and every Arab state but also Europe and, in the not far-off future, the United States as well. Protected by its nuclear umbrella, Iran will be able to promote terror, undermine pro-Western governments, and transfer its nuclear know-how to other recalcitrant states—all with near-impunity.
Clearly, preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear-weapons capability constitutes a primary interest for the United States and its Middle Eastern allies. But how is this to be done? That is the question tackled by Kenneth M
About the Author
Michael B. Oren is a senior fellow of the Shalem Center in Jerusalem and the author of Six Days of War: June 1967 and the Making of the Modern Middle East.