At the same time, we must stop exaggerating the Iranian threat. By hyping it, we only provide Iran with "free power," in Leslie Gelb's apt phrase. This is an insecure Third World country with a GDP that is one 40th the size of America's, a dysfunctional economy, a divided political class, and a government facing mass unrest at home. It has alienated most of its neighboring states and cuts a sorry figure on the world stage, with an international embarrassment for a president. Its forays in Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon, and Gaza have had mixed results, with the locals often growing weary of the Iranian thugs who try to control them.
The country does not yet have even one nuclear weapon, and if and when it gets one—something that is far from certain—the world will not end. The Middle East has been home to nuclear weapons for decades. If Israel's estimated -arsenal of 200 warheads, including a "second-strike capacity," has not prompted Egypt to develop its own nukes, it's not clear that one Iranian bomb would do so. (Recall that Egypt has fought and lost three wars against Israel, so it should be far more concerned about an Israeli bomb than an Iranian one.) More crucially, Israel's massive nuclear force will deter Iran from ever contemplating using or giving away its own (hypothetical) weapon. Deterrence worked with madmen like Mao, and with thugs like Stalin, and it will work with the calculating autocrats of Tehran. The Iranian regime has amply demonstrated over the past four months that it is interested in hanging on to power at all costs, jailing mullahs and ignoring its own clerical elite. These are not the actions of religious rulers about to commit mass suicide.We should not fear to negotiate with these rulers.
Clearly, there will be many screeching voices from the right wing noise machine who oppose this "appeasement" and will liken it to Chamberlain and Hitler. But those voices have no real credibility in the foreign policy world, and they earn money by hyping fears and criticizing everything. By contrast, I have heard and seen support for Zakaria's view by people such as Pat Buchanan, Henry Kissinger, and Charles Krauthammer. In fact, as far back as the Bush administration, Krauthammer offered the rational conclusion that if Iran wants the bomb, they will get it. But they can and will be persuaded not to use it. For, they don't want to become a parking lot, as much as some like to paint them a national of suicidal maniacs. That's no more true than it is in Pakistan or Korea.
Thus, perhaps, as Iran slowly moves out from under its theocratic control - hints of which were revealed in the last election - the world will control its more unsavory elements without making it worse.