At the heart of the issue lies the Iranian regime’s aspiration to become a hegemonic Islamic and regional power and thereby position itself at eye level with the world’s most powerful nations. It is precisely this ambition that sets Iran apart from North Korea: Whereas North Korea seeks nuclear weapons capability to entrench its own isolation, Iran is aiming for regional dominance and more. ~Joschka Fischer, The Washington Post

Let’s assume for the moment that Mr. Fischer is right that Iran aims for regional dominance. Will acquiring nuclear weapons give it regional dominance? I suppose it depends on the region we are talking about. In what is properly called the Middle East, Iran faces Pakistan, which has a greater population, larger army and much more established and developed nuclear arsenal than Iran. Iran’s acquisition of nuclear weapons will not make it the dominant power to its east. Meanwhile, to its north Iran faces Russia and what are increasingly her satellites (try as Washington may to make them into our satellites), backed up by one of the two greatest nuclear arsenals on earth. Dominance to the north is not really a danger. The idea of a threat to Europe from Iran is the product of some European paranoia.

To the west and south, Iran might seem to have more options, except that the one country whose domination Western nations actively worry about, namely Israel, has more than enough in its own arsenal to match and deter any Iranian threat. The current Shi’ite-dominated Iraqi government, such as it is, has welcomed Iran’s development of its nuclear program–if Iran is set for regional domination, the Iraqis seem much more sanguine about it than we do, yet they ought to be the ones who are most concerned about being dominated. If the Turkish government has made a great deal of noise about Iran’s nuclear program, I must have missed it.

So what are Western governments really concerned about? There is the fear that Iranian nukes would allow it to dictate terms to Saudi Arabia and thus achieve some greater control over oil exports, which brings up two questions: is American hegemony in Arabia as important for U.S. security as current policy makes it out to be, and are “we” willing to see the Saudis develop their own bomb in response? But it is nonsense to speak of Iranian “hegemonic aspirations” in a vacuum, as if no other state has hegemonic aspirations of its own. The question is not, as Mr. Fischer put it, whether the U.S. or Iran will dominate the Middle East, but whether the U.S. will insist that Iran cannot be on par with several other Middle Eastern powers as part of the maintenance of its own domination. The real question Americans should be asking is whether maintaining our hegemony throughout the Near and Middle East is worth the wars we are being compelled to fight to enforce it. It seems clear to me that the answer is no.