The discussion everywhere these days is about Iran’s strength. Mitt Romney, the Republican front-runner, describes Iran as “the greatest threat that the world faces over the next decade.” He and others are impressed by Iran’s recent declarations about its nuclear capacities and its missile tests. Newt Gingrich has compared the Iranian challenge to the rise of Hitler’s Germany. More measured commentators also see Iran’s rising influence and power across the Middle East.
In fact, the real story is that Iran is weak and getting weaker. Sanctions have pushed its economy into a nose-dive. The political system is fractured and fragmenting. Abroad, its closest ally and the regime of which it is almost the sole supporter — Syria — is itself crumbling. The Persian Gulf monarchies have banded together against Iran and shored up their relations with Washington. Last week, Saudi Arabia closed its largest-ever purchase of U.S. weaponry. Meanwhile, Europe is close to approving even more intense sanctions against Tehran.