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THE INDEX—October 2, 2009

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Charles Cogan: Iran — They're Gaming Us?

Artistically and architecturally, the city of Isfahan is one of the urban jewels of Iranian civilization. It is a symbol of the beauty that Iranians have been able to render through their country’s history. But is Iran really ready to sacrifice all this glory (not to mention the lives of its citizens) in an attempt to annihilate Israel? Surely, Iranians know what would be coming at them in retaliation for such a rash attack, were it to take place. The recent turmoil following the disputed elections has somewhat changed the way we look at (and what we hope for) Iran, but realists must confront the reality that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will likely remain in office, and will almost certainly continue his bellicose attacks on Israel and the West. (Though with the credibility of the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and President Ahmadinejad having been somewhat damaged by the election campaign and its aftermath, we may see a temporary toning down of the rhetoric.) Nonetheless, it is never too soon to begin reassessing the Iranian nuclear question. Since the Iranian leadership would obviously prefer to avoid military annihilation, why are Ahmadinejad's Hitler-like rants tolerated by Khamenei? To curry favor with the Arab street, which is not, by nature, disposed to like Persians? To brandish the threat of a weapon of mass destruction attack in the region in order to intimidate the leaderships of moderate Arab states?

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