July 23, 2006

World War III/IV or a penny ante game?

A number of breathless pundits have described the Iranian challenge to the U.S. as the modern equivalent of of the old Soviet challenge. So, I've been trawling for estimates of the size of Iran's annual subsidy to Hezbollah, Iran's primary foreign beneficiary, and I've come up with a range of $25 million to $200 million, with a modal guess of $100 million (and even that paltry sum is arousing resentment among Iranian voters). In comparison, the annual Soviet subsidy to Cuba alone in the 1980s is said to have run between $4 and $6 billion, or at least 20 times larger. Hezbollah is thought to have 5,000 men at arms in its home country of Lebanon, which contrasts with the 65,000 that Cuba deployed in 17 African countries at the behest of the Kremlin.

So, compared to the Cold War, this should be a tempest in a teapot. Indeed, through 9/11, Iran's regional ambitions were being restrained by two regimes, the Taliban to the east and Saddam to the west, even though they were little more than house-of-cards. The U.S. then easily toppled both, sensibly in the case of Afghanistan, more mysteriously in the case of Iraq. So, Iran now has Shi'ite allies in a belt to the west through the formerly Sunni-dominated but now Shi'ite-run Iraq, into quasi-Shi'ite-controlled Syria, and on to Hezbollah's state-within-a-state in South Lebanon. But, in terms of a threat to the West, this isn't at all like Russia controlling Ukraine, Poland, and East Germany. So, let's keep matters in perspective.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

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