John Limbert does some much needed threat-deflating regarding Iran:
The facts do not support the fearmongers. Their warnings of “Iranian hegemony” and a “new Persian Empire” have no basis in reality.
Obviously, I agree with Limbert, and I’ve been saying much the same thing for the last year. Iran isn’t a position to be a regional hegemon for several reasons. For one thing, its military can’t project power throughout the region, and it is significantly outgunned by its Gulf neighbors. For another, it has significantly less influence today than it did five or six years ago, and that is due in large part to its involvement in Syria’s civil war. That involvement is often wrongly cited as proof of Iran’s “domination,” but it shows just the opposite: a desperate attempt to shore up a faltering allied government. This has isolated it in the region, and it has reinforced the sectarian divisions that already hampered Iran’s ability to wield influence. The biggest gain that Iran made in the last twenty years was by seizing the opportunity for increased influence in Iraq made possible by the overthrow of the Hussein regime. The Iran hawks that claim to be most alarmed by “growing” Iranian power were oblivious to the consequences of toppling Hussein in a war that all of them supported, and now that Iranian influence is waning they are sounding the alarm over an Iranian “empire” that doesn’t exist.
Hawks typically just exaggerate foreign threats. Iran hawks have distinguished themselves by underestimating how much Iran would benefit from the Iraq war, and now they are grossly overstating how powerful Iran is. They failed to anticipate Iranian advances when they were most likely to happen and then invented a “Persian empire” at the moment when Iran’s regional position is the worst that it’s been in decades.