For much of last December, Iran seemed schizophrenic. As the European Union and the United States finally seemed to agree on implementing tough new sanctions against the theocracy, Tehran threatened to shut down the Strait of Hormuz and thereby choke off 40 percent of the world’s petroleum leaving the Persian Gulf. At times, the mullahs bragged of new centrifuges coming on line; at other moments, they issued warnings to the American navy to pull one of its huge aircraft carriers out of the region—or face the consequences.
Just when some sort of international crisis seemed inevitable, once again Iran issued a clarification, denying any desire for war—only to issue more threats against the U.S. navy the next day, along with boasts of pressing ahead with its nuclear program. What are we to make of these serial, but seemingly empty threats of war, so reminiscent of North Korean bluster? Of course, there are plenty of examples in history to remind us that the constant saber rattling of failed states leads nowhere except to temporary tension and convenient rises in commodity and oil prices. But there also are enough other instances of unexpected attacks to suggest that the lunacy of lunatic regimes sometimes should be taken seriously