Well, Iran has now made the first overt move of its power play.
It is removing its fungible assets from western markets.
Add to that the call for reducing oil production, which given the laws of supply and demand means nothing less than a call to increase the price of oil.
This is the start of the escalation process and Iran is positioning itself for a major non-military conflict.
Let's try and understand what psychological process is also going on here: the Iranian leadership is suffering from a superiority complex. They think they are smarter and morally superior to the decadent West. Military threats leave them cold, since they consider the use of military force to be an admission of weakness, not one of strength; their arguments will be moral ones, aimed at the Arab street and not the West. They are increasingly trying to maneouvre the West into attacking them, and "Shock and Awe" won't work here, since their belief in their own fundamental moral superiority over the West - the basis of Islamic fundamentalism is this belief - means that they can use any attack, no matter how devestating, as proof that the West is morally decadent.
This belief, of course, is fundamental to Islam: that it, as a religion, is fundamentally superior to all other religions, and that all other religions must be eliminated as a result. It's their right to insist on this: anyone who opposes this is per definition stupid, illogical and evil.
I remember a guy I studied with when I was starting my graduate studies. He was Iranian, but called himself Persian. He was a pleasant enough fellow, he studied philosophy and, like me, did phenomonological hermeneutics. But one summer he went back to Iran for the first time in years - his parents had been Shah supporters, this was 1982 or so - and came back a changed man. Literally.
We had one last conversation. He first said that he didn't understand me: he knew I was intelligent, since we had long discussions on rather arcane aspects of Heidegger's interpretation of Husserlian phenomenology. But he also knew that I was an American, and that he had problems with, massive problems: the only reason he was talking to me was to try to understand how I could be so appallingly stupid when I obviously wasn't. His problem: I had not converted to Islam.
He was dead serious. When he realized that I found his attitude bizarre and his assumption that any intelligent person must perforce become Islamic to be rather intolerant, he didn't say anything: he just walked away. Over the next several years, I tried talking to him on occasion: he was invariably polite, but also made it quite clear that he wasn't interested in talking to me at all. I tried to understand why: he had become an Islamist and had divided the world into Islam und Dar'Salem, into believers and infidels.
He no longer cared what happened to infidels. He was no longer interested in discussion and dialogue: the world was black and white, and if you weren't Muslim you were an infidel and therefore no longer worthy of consideration.
This is the sort of mind set we are dealing with.
Victor Hansen puts it well:
He has studied the recent Western postmodern mind, nursed on its holy trinity of multiculturalism, moral equivalence and relativism. As a third-world populist, Ahmadinejad expects that his own fascism will escape scrutiny if he just recites enough the past sins of the West. He also understands victimology. So he also knows that to destroy the Israelis, he--not they--must become the victim, and the Europeans the ones who forced his hand. Ahmadinejad also grasps that there are millions of highly educated but cynical Westerners who see nothing much exceptional about their own culture. So if democratic America has nuclear weapons, why not theocratic Iran? Moreover, he knows how Western relativism works. So who is to say what are "facts" or what is "true"--given the tendency of the powerful to "construct" their own narratives and call the result "history." Was not the Holocaust exaggerated, or perhaps even fabricated, as mere jails became "death camps" through a trick of language to take over Palestinian land?
We laugh at all this as absurd. We should not.
Money, oil and threats have brought the Iranian theocrats to the very threshold of a nuclear arsenal. Their uncanny diagnosis of Western malaise has now convinced them that they can carefully fabricate a Holocaust-free reality in which Muslims are the victims and Jews the aggressors deserving of punishment. And thus Ahmadinejad's righteously aggrieved (and nuclear) Iran can, after "hundreds of years of war," finally set things right in the Middle East.
And then a world that wishes to continue to make money and drive cars in peace won't much care how this divinely appointed holy man finally finishes a bothersome "war of destiny."
This is for the Iranians the end game: they plan on winning. Destroy Israel and humiliate the West will mean that Iran will be the dominant regional superpower of the region for the foreseeable future, they will be able to throw the US out of Iraq and help Shi'a to become the dominant thread of Islam. And believe me, humiliating the US is a major goal of the Iranians. Humiliating the West includes massive increases in oil prices to prostrate western societies, aided by the collusion between Iran and Venezuela.
To repeat: this is the end game for the Iranians. Talking about it further isn't going to work. The game is deadly serious and Iran can lose everything, as it already has started to: given the demographics and politics of Iran, the hard-liners are faced with losing their ability to make such a move, despite the continuing consolidation of power in Iran and continuing use of terror to stay in power.
Part of the problem is death-wish: part of the problem is that Iran has been lying about its plans for the last 20 years or so and continues to do so today, openly so. On the one hand you've got a state that glorifies death, on the other hand you've got a state that if it doesn't have a nuclear weapons plan, wants everyone to think it does.
This is not a recipe for success. Iran is gambling not only with its own future , but that of the West as well.
War options aren't pleasant: this is a different scenario than Iraq was. Not so much for the military but vastly more so for civilians. I think that a l egitimate case can be made for military force, yet we really don't know if Iran is bluffing. They may be: they might not be.
In any case, the game has begun. The problem is that no one knows the rules and that there are those who would really like to throw the game in order to be on the winning side at any cost. And then there are those who know how to end the game in 30 minutes . And there are those on the other side who don't even know who they are fighting.
And let me end with this:
Good people sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf: Evil people sleep peaceably in their beds at night because tenured wackademics and left-wing media sheep stand ready to make excuses on their behalf.
Good night and sleep well.