Kofi Annan has graduated 'Summa Cum Laude' from the university of the bleeding obvious. After doing a straw poll of middle Eastern leaders, he discovered that most deem the Iraq war to have been a disaster. For once, we can all agree. Specifically for middle Eastern leaders, the Iraq war is and will be the biggest disaster to befall them in the short history of ME nation-states. Up till now, the exigencies of the cold war, and then the mypia and inertia of both the US and Europe allowed the most disgusting and anti-huminatiarian regimes to exist in the ME without challenge.
But with the sweeping away of the Talibans suffocating and poisonous cabal and then Saddams grotesque and murderous thugocracy, that changed suddenly; from Damascus to Riyadh, Cairo to Tehran, the unelected and corrupt men in charge started to sweat and thrum nervously on their thrones. Things were afoot. New winds started to blow through. First, Muammar Ghaddaffi, the worlds most hilarious dictator, did a well-publicised switcheroo and gave up all his WMD programs. Then the Syrian twit Assad pulled his troops out of Lebanon, and even intercepted a few jihadis on their way to a quick death in Iraq. Most of the rest decided they were US allies at least for now. Only the Iranians diverged from the path of reason and realpolitick.
They did what can only be explained as whistling through the graveyard. Instead of looking over the border at the 135,000 seasoned US troops and making the obvious judgement that perhaps now was not the best time to tweak the tail of the great Satan, it has twisted and tweaked like there is no tomorrow. First, they attempted (and are still attempting) to break up the Iraqi state by sponsoring Shia death squads. Second, they used their proxies in Lebanon to start a war with Israel. And third, they are going hell-bent for leather to develop nuclear weapons.
I think we all know in our heart of hearts how this will play out. The US is never going to let an Iranian state ruled by psychotic, irrational hate-mongers go nuclear, right next door to two delicate new democracys. In Iraq a third of the population have religious affiliations with Iran. In Afghanistan, no nation-state has ever really existed, not at any point in history. One is currently being created, but the time-scale is at the very least decades. A nuclear Iran would change the regional balance beyond recognition instantly. The stakes in any confrontation would immediately be off the scale. So I predict Iran will have a nuclear program for about another month, maybe two.
The middle-term problem is Pakistan. Having now given the North West Frontier province to Al-Qaeda, Musharraf looks much less like a US/British ally. And he has real nukes, right now. The wafer-thin margin of influence that the US/UK can exert in Pakistan would disappear in a trice were Mr Musharraf to meet a bloody end, which he probably expects at any moment (and so should we). So really, its a two-fer as Americans call it. Pakistan cannot be trusted to have nuclear weapons if its going to allow Al-Qaeda to create a state-within-a-state in the NWF province. It probably doesn't have many anyway, and a surgical take-out of those must have been contingency-planned for many decades at the Pentagon.
So my prediction is that within two years, the world will have one less nuclear program, and one less nuclear state. And quite possibly two or three revolutions. Watch this space.