Joe Klein checks in on the country and our policy towards it:
Iran is more like a baby Soviet Union. A regional power, with ties to a dangerous terrorist network--Hizballah--but one that will respond to international diplomatic pressure. It is also a real country, with real assets, and unlikely to take actions that will result in a devastating attack by the U.S. or Israel. It is not Al Qaeda. If it continues to be recalcitrant--and there is no reason to believe it won't--the strategic answer is containment, just as we contained the Russians. This would involve a regional defensive alliance against Iran--an informal one, perhaps--involving Iraq, the Gulf States and the Sunni powers (plus Israel), a project that David Petraeus has been quietly pursuing as head of Centcom.
It would include the provision of anti-missile capabilities and the guarantee of American support if Iran moves on any of these nations. It also assumes that Iran will develop a nuclear weapon, which--as things stand--seems a probability. Most experts believe that Iran's aims here are defensive, as Hashemi Rafsanjani--the only Iranian leader ever to publicly mention the possibility of a bomb--said in 2001: as a deterrent to Israel's nuclear arsenal. Any nuclear proliferation is potentially destabilizing--although it is also potentially stabilizing, preventing adversaries from going to total war, as war the case in the Cold War and now seems to be holding firm (in a nervous-making way) between India and Pakistan.