Imagine that the revolution taking place right now in the streets of Tehran re-occurs in 2013. Further assume that Iran has the bomb. Several, in fact. Assume further that this time, the Iranian Army decides to intervene on the side of the revolution because everyone except the Revolutionary Guard has had quite enough of the mullahs and their corruption and incompetence.
What happens as the mullahs' world falls apart?
First off, as Christopher Hitchens points out, the mullahs really believe all that death to America and death to Israel stuff.
One of the signs of Iran's underdevelopment is the culture of rumor and paranoia that attributes all ills to the manipulation of various demons and satans.Christopher Hitchens also points out that their paranoia and hatred of the US, UK and Israel has very little to do with reality.
There is nothing at all that any Western country can do to avoid the charge of intervening in Iran's internal affairs. The deep belief that everything—especially anything in English—is already and by definition an intervention is part of the very identity and ideology of the theocracy.So, given this, as their regime collapses, will the mullahs:
It is a mistake to assume that the ayatollahs, cynical and corrupt as they may be, are acting rationally. They are frequently in the grip of archaic beliefs and fears that would make a stupefied medieval European peasant seem mentally sturdy and resourceful by comparison.
a) go quietly into the night
b) launch everything they have against the objects of their hate?
I would suggest that option b) is the most likely. America would then be faced with the choice of losing one or more cities to nuclear weapons or supporting the Iranian regime against the protestors. The cost of losing a city might be higher than you think. The problem of a nuclear attack doesn't stop with the hundreds of thousands that would be vaporized. If you thought 9/11 was bad for business, just wait until a major transportation center like Chicago is blasted off the map.
Now let's assume that there is no revolution and that instead, Iran continues its meddling in other countries' affairs through the use of proxies like Hamas and Hezbollah - perhaps enhanced by similar groups in the UK or US. Unless the destruction they cause in the US rises to the level of nuclear attack, how do you stop it? Israel has shown that police forces and conventional armies operating under restrictive rules of engagement can't prevent attacks. You have to cut off the source of their support.
However, you won't be able to do that because that leads you back to the first scenario wherein the cornered mullahs unleash nuclear weapons on your cities. You would be reduced to protecting the demented regime that attacks you because you value life and civilization and they do not.
Finally, you won't be able to let anyone overthrow the mullahs because no matter who it is - Russia, Pakistan or the combined Arab states, the end result is the same for the US and UK. As the Great Satan, it won't matter who is actually attacking them, some of those bombs will be reserved for us. We will become Iran's de facto ally against the rest of the world.
This revolution in Iran could be our last chance to prevent the world from becoming a knowing, willing host to a very dangerous parasite.