Karim Sadjapour applauds the Obama administration for resisting callsfor preventive war against Iran, but also notes that a strategy that focuses primarily on the military containment of Iran “ignores the fact that Iran’s strength lies primarily in its political influence, not its military prowess”:
Tehran’s military budget is less than a quarter of regional rival Saudi Arabia’s. But its soft power, along with it support for militias, can undermine governments with vastly superior armies, as has been evidenced by the US in Iraq.
Sadjadpour also raises a great question about what sort of Iran hawkish Arab leaders might actually like to see:
The WikiLeaks revelations make clear that Arab officials believe Iran to be inherently dishonest and dangerous. The feeling is probably mutual. But they hide perhaps a more interesting issue, namely what type of Iranian government would actually best serve Gulf Arab interests.
President Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nejad and the Islamic Republic may be loathed, but equally the advent of a more progressive, democratic Iran would enable Tehran to emerge from its largely self-inflicted isolation and begin to realise its enormous potential. In the zero-sum game of Middle Eastern politics, a democratic Iran would pose huge challenges to Persian Gulf sheikhdoms.
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