Confidence Game: Analysis of Iran situation from Christopher Dickey. "Iraq has taught us that 'unknown unknowns' make lousy targets. Will Washington heed that lesson when it responds to Tehran breaking its nuclear seals?.. Even some of the most rabid Iranian opposition groups think the mullahs can withstand whatever the Israelis or Americans throw at them from the air—and in the aftermath the Iranian public would rally around the turbans. Indeed, some opposition groups think Ahmadinejad is intentionally goading the Israelis to launch a strike for just that reason. "If they attack him, he will have his war; if they do not, he will have his bomb," says one well-connected exile ..
"The Iranians think they are untouchable," says a European diplomat involved with the negotiations .. Yet patience with Tehran may be wearing thin in Moscow and Beijing. Both governments joined with France, Britain and the United States sending letters to the Iranians yesterday telling them to back off from a renewal of the uranium enrichment research. ..
Paradoxical as it may seem, their greatest weakness is their oil and gas industry. Sure, Iran has the second largest oil reserves in the Middle East, after Saudi Arabia. But its facilities for pumping and processing the stuff are in such a sorry state that domestic demand for gasoline is 60 percent greater than the country's refining capacity. To keep up, the mullahs have to import more than 95,000 barrels a day. Iran has the second-largest known reserves of natural gas in the world—but it's a net importer of the stuff its people use. To make matters much worse, the mullahs long ago adopted a policy trying to buy popular support with massively subsidized prices for cooking gas, gasoline and other products. Today, those subsidies eat up a whopping 10 percent of Iran's gross domestic product ..
If Ahmadinejad succeeds in provoking the United Nations to impose serious sanctions, cutting off Iran's imports of heavily subsidized natural gas and gasoline, the first people to suffer would be the Iranian president's core constituency—the poor and uneducated. A long, tense game lies ahead, but, again like Iraq in 2003, there are options short of war that may yet bring the desired results.." 3:19:01 PM