If one sifts the sands with care, patterns can be discerned. Iran has laid claim to much of the Persian Gulf, in 1971 the Shah seized three islands belonging properly to the UAE and has been aggressive toward the other Arab states in recent years. Indeed, Iran laid claim to the whole of Bahrain last year in a move that is reminiscent of the old Iraqi claim on Kuwait.
The collapse of the Sunni Arab bloc against Iran’s ambitions leaves matters a little clearer. One of Iran’s medium term ambitions is to control all naval movement in the Persian Gulf, granting that nation a de facto stranglehold over the greater part of the world’s oil supplies. A series of fortified island bases, compliant or acquiescent Arab states fearful of loss of revenue and a frightened United States would irrevocably begin Iran’s transition to Great Power status.
By itself, this would be undesirable in traditional terms of nation states and powers but when the religious eschatological element is fed into the equation, a much more frightening picture emerges. The present Iranian regime is a mix of the pragmatic fundamentalist and the messianic mystical extremist wing of Shia Islam. With that kind of power in the hands of the regime, there is a danger that the mystical apocalyptic wing could gain control and seek to begin a war on a much wider theatre than Israel.
War is becoming inevitable, but at present the West is still attempting to put off or delay the inevitable and is repeating the mistakes of appeasement.