It is now all but certain that the American administration has more or less resigned itself to a nuclear Iran. At the very least, it appears to have decided to take no military action against the Iranian nuclear program, nor even to support or encourage – publicly or discreetly – the Iranian popular opposition to the Ahmadinejad regime. The Obama administration will likely continue to pursue its policy of promoting engagement, either out of cynicism or naiveté, while simultaneously busying itself with the diplomatic give and take of arranging international support for sanctions which are unlikely to be effective. It is entirely possible, moreover, that American exhaustion from a decade of war and its public’s concentration on pressing domestic problems will effectively vitiate any political damage that might result from the emergence of a nuclear Iran. This, at any rate, is likely what Obama and the doves in his administration are counting on.
At first glance, this appears to be a disastrous state of affairs. But it need not be so. A nuclear armed Iran may be considered the lesser of possible evils by the United States, but it cannot be seen this way by others. To many Americans, the Iranian threat appears to be comfortably distant. This is something of a willful illusion, of course, but it is a politically influential and perhaps decisive one. For Iran’s neighbors, however, as well as many nations on their periphery, the threat is far more immediate.
Israeli concerns are naturally the most intense, given the Iranian president’s openly racist and genocidal attitude toward the Jewish state. But Israel is hardly alone in its concerns. If, as many suspect, the ultimate goal of the Iranian theocrats is the establishment of Iranian hegemony in the Middle East and thus the de facto seizure of the leadership of the Muslim world, then almost everyone in the region and many beyond have an interest in preventing such an outcome.