Thursday, July 19, 2007

The Economist: The riddle of Iran

The cover story of this week's Economist asks how Iran's leaders--who think a nuclear weapon could rejuvenate their tired revolution--can be stopped.

“THE Iranian regime is basically a messianic apocalyptic cult.” So says Israel's once and perhaps future prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu. If he is right the world is teetering on the edge of a terrifying crisis.

The article describes three possible outcomes of this nasty situation.

This story could have at least three unhappy endings. In one, Iran ends up with nuclear weapons, bringing new instability and a hair-trigger face-off with nuclear Israel into one of the world's least-safe neighbourhoods. In another, America or Israel take pre-emptive military action and manage to stop it, even though such an attack would almost certainly have very dangerous consequences of its own. In the third ending, Iran is attacked, and enraged, and retaliates—and still ends up with a bomb anyway.

It is vital to understand that this third finale is not a nightmare dreamt up by editorial writers. After the false intelligence that led America into Iraq, and the mayhem that followed, it may seem hard to believe that America or Israel are pondering an attack on a much bigger Muslim country. But they are—and they are not mad.

When The Economist begins kicking around the idea of a pre-emptive strike, you can be assured the Iran situation is getting very serious.

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