Though modestly produced and hastily assembled, Iran's Strategic Intentions and Capabilities probably marks a turning point in the Western assessment of Iran's Islamic Republic. No longer, the authors tell us, should we expect the mullahs of Tehran to organize and lead the world's anti-American club. To the contrary, we can expect them to weaken and, before very long, to fall.
Laurent Lamote (a pseudonymous French scholar) makes the most dramatic statements: "The only fight the 15 year-old Islamic Republic of Iran can undertake is for its own survival." The regime no longer has anything to which it "can point as an example of success or source of hope." As the regime's problems multiply, religious leaders outside the government note that Islam, which once served as Khomeini's subversive ideology, has become a tool of state repression. They fear this will lead to Islam getting blamed for the country's problems, even that the faith will be "endangered in Iran." To prevent this dire outcome, they are abandoning the government, even turning against it, with potentially major implications for regime stability. Lamote also points to another problem, hitherto little recognized in the West: the severe disaffection of Iran's Sunni population, some nine million strong.
In another important chapter, the editor persuasively argues that the West cannot change the basics of Iranian foreign policy; and analyses by Shahram Chubin, Michael Eisenstadt, and Ahmed Hashim point to the limits of Iran's military capabilities.