Originally published under the title "Mounting Tension with Iran." Click here to listen to the audio.
The United States and Iran came closer to war last week than they have in 40 years. President Trump said the U.S. was prepared to strike three targets in Iran on Thursday night. He called off the attack at the last minute, after learning 150 people would die.
This came after Iran shot down an American surveillance drone, inching the two countries closer to a full-scale confrontation.
Daniel Pipes: I don't think either party wants to see a hot war, but they're signaling each other furiously, warning each other, deterring each other.
Daniel Pipes is president of the Middle East Forum and an expert on Islam and the Middle East. He isn't too concerned about an imminent war but says Iran does create significant problems in the region.
Pipes: They're on a roll as has often been pointed out. The Iranians dominate in four Arab capitals: The Yemini, Lebanese, Syrian, and Iraqi. They are the great disruptive force of the Middle East.
That's a problem because Tehran exports terrorism and destabilizes Western allies. Iran's leadership wants to dominate the entire region. Pipes says Iran is staging attacks cleverly and anonymously through proxy groups.
Daniel Pipes: "The Iranians dominate in four Arab capitals ... They are the great disruptive force of the Middle East."
The U.S. blamed Iranian-backed Houthi rebels for attacks on four oil tankers in mid-May. Iran denied any involvement. Attacks targeted two other tankers on June 13th in the same location—the Gulf of Oman. Thirty percent of the world's crude oil passes through these waters.
The Saudi king condemned Iran's actions during a June gathering of Arab and Muslim leaders in Mecca. The United Arab Emirates is on Saudi Arabia's side, but other states have been reluctant to join the duo. The tiny but wealthy nation of Qatar is a big wildcard. Extremist elements have flourished there, and Iran has become cozy with the country's leaders. Pipes says Saudi Prince Muhammad bin Salman miscalculated when he cut diplomatic ties with Qatar two years ago.
Pipes: It was one of MBS's many mistakes. He acts first and thinks later. And it pushed the Qataris toward the Iranians and towards the Turks.
Qatar also hosts the United State's most strategic overseas military base. That won't change any time soon, but it creates a dilemma for the West.
Pipes: Everybody is to one extent or another Islamist, but the Qataris are more actively so now than the Saudis, which is a switch.
President Trump insists he's not looking for regime change. He only wants to encourage Iran to change course. But Pipes says regime change in Tehran would be a good thing as long as it's led by exiles and opposition groups in Iran supported by the West. He says the people of Iran have learned a lesson from the past 40 years and are ready for change. And, Pipes says, that makes the regime vulnerable.
Pipes: One could wake up any morning and find some bakeries didn't have bread, some gas station didn't have gasoline and troubles follow and it could shake the regime. It could overthrow the regime.
Reporting for WORLD Radio, I'm Jill Nelson.