January 12, 2008

MAHMOUD VS THE AYATOLLAH:

Iran's urge to dominate makes it vulnerable (David Blair, 12/01/2008, Daily Telegraph)

[T]eheran's elite also want to guarantee the regime's survival. Preserving the Islamic government forged by the Revolution of 1979 is the prime concern of the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Building a nuclear weapon might allow Iran to achieve both goals. An Iran armed with nuclear missiles could dominate the Middle East and ensure that America would never impose "regime change".

Yet the process of acquiring a weapon makes Iran extremely vulnerable. Thanks to its nuclear programme, Teheran is incurring economic sanctions, isolation and the risk of an American attack.

Moreover, Arab countries are cooperating with Washington to contain Iran. This is the unspoken theme of Mr Bush's tour of the Gulf states.

A senior British official said the costs of the nuclear programme were apparent to some in the ruling elite. "There is a real debate going on within the regime," he said. "There is one scenario where people think it's not worth the candle."

Some experts believe Iran has not taken a final, strategic decision to acquire a nuclear weapon. Efraim Halevy, who was director of Mossad between 1998 and 2002, said: "There is not a consensus in Iran that they need this thing."

He added that "behind Iran's tough talk" lies an "ingrained sense of fear" caused by the regime's isolation and the weakness of the economy. Mr Halevy believes that Iran's leadership may decide that "their own self interest is not to do this".

Posted by Orrin Judd at January 12, 2008 10:07 AM
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