One of my very favorite historians, Victor Davis Hanson, makes an interesting point about the recently-concluded Iranian Hostage Situation (March-April 2007 edition):
What should we make of the Iranians’ behavior?So, if Iran wants it so badly, is it really a good idea to give it to them?
Namely that the country’s leadership is in deep political trouble. The Iranian government is desperate to provoke the West to win back friends in the Islamic world, and to quell growing unrest at home. Subsidizing food and gas, providing billions for terrorists and building nukes all cost money at a time when the state-run Iranian economy is in shambles.
Because of incompetence in their oil industry, the Iranian mullahs have achieved the impossible: Despite having among the world’s largest petroleum reserves, their production is shrinking and they have managed to earn increasingly less petrodollars even as the world price has soared.
While the Iranian theocrats understand that the entire world, including many of their own citizens, is turning against them, they also know that this could change if a Western nation would just attack them. Their strategy seems to be to find a way to provoke someone to drop a few bombs on them, on the naive assumption that such an assault would be of limited duration and damage. Such an attack, they may figure, would earn them sympathy in much of the world.