The revolution in Iran is still in its infancy? Niall Ferguson asks whether it has found its' Stalin.
The point is that President Bush's "axis of evil" - Iran, Iraq and North Korea - was never an "axis" at all. Iran and Iraq were historic adversaries. To weaken one was, inevitably, to strengthen the other. Moreover, as the British Government knew all along (see the Downing Street memorandum of July 2002), Iran was significantly closer than Iraq to acquiring real weapons of mass destruction. Now it is even closer. And, worst of all, no one in Iran wants WMD more avidly than President Ahamadinejad.
It is the old revolutionary story: the generation forged by revolutionary war turns out to be more belligerent than the generation who led the revolution itself. Significantly, Ahamadinejad's main election backers were the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and the Basiji, the paramilitary popular militias formed during the Iran-Iraq War. Ahamadinejad is himself a war veteran - one of hundreds of thousands of Iranians who came of age under fire.
So where do we go from here? Plan A - the European carrot - has failed. Plan B - the flaccid UN stick - will also fail. Unfortunately Plan C - American (or Israeli) air strikes - is fraught with peril. According to Michael J Mazarr of the US National War College, Iran could retaliate with "an elaborate, ferocious, global provocation designed to draw the United States into a protracted conflict".
That translates into more terrorism in our cities and an escalation of the war in Iraq. "If Iran wanted," Iraq's Deputy Foreign Minister Hamid Al Bayati said in February, "it could make Iraq a hell for the United States."
Now, ask yourself, what would be the likely effect of such a confrontation on Iranian politics?
To repeat: the Iranian revolution is still at an early stage. It has not yet produced its Bonaparte, its Stalin, its Mao. Or has it? A full-scale war with the "Great Satan" may be all Mr Ahmadinejad needs to don that bloody mantle.