When you look at the map of the Middle East, Iran looks like a giant panther pouncing atop the Arab (and Israeli) countries to the southwest.
Iran is more than just one country. It's poised to dominate the region. Its Shia population puts it in direct conflict with most of the Arab Middle East. Its virulent rhetoric is reminiscent of the old days of Arab-Israeli politics, when Egypt's Arab Nationalist Gamal Abdel Nasser would frequently toss vitriolic and harsh threats against Israel.
No wonder no one outside of Syria and Hezbollah, part of Iran's circle of Shia-based allies, fears their growing power, and no wonder U.S. presidential candidates such as Rick Santorum have declared they would bomb Iran if elected.
Ironically, though, Iran is a problem today because the West helped make it so. I know the West doesn't like anyone pointing this out. Israel doesn't like to hear this, either. It puts them on the wrong side of morality, on another issue, yet again.
Iran was governed for a long time by the shah of Iran, Reza Pahlavi. He was a tyrant worse than Bashar al-Assad ever could aspire to become, though al-Assad is trying hard to reach that pinnacle of tyrannical megalomania.
The shah was the protector of the West's real true love, one of the largest oil reserves in the world next to Saudi Arabia's undersand stash of black gold.
Yet, when the shah of Iran decided to begin his nuclear program, the West worked with him. The shah said he wanted four nuclear plants to provide electricity to his poverty-stricken people.
Most Iranians at the time didn't have electricity, except those related to the shah and those who worked for his military or the dreaded SAVAK, the secret service (mukhabarat) that became a role model for the shah's role models, Saddam Hussein, Moammar Gadhafi and the al-Assad clan in Syria.
If the shah had a Facebook account, all of his "friends" would be the leaders of the Western world. The West "loved" the shah.
A few asked the question: With all that oil to use as energy, why would Iran need nuclear-based power?
Everything was going well in this typical Western fairy tale of love and alliances until 1979, when the first "Middle East Spring" erupted. Iran is not Arab, of course, but if the "Arab Spring" advocates are to contemplate how their futures might turn out, all they have to do is look toward the ayatollah-infested country of Iran, where backward religious fanatics now dictate life in that country, mixing the unavoidable fruits of modern technology with their desire for a return to the year when the Shia religion took real form, sometime around the Western year of 666.
The "Iranian Spring" directed its anger at the United States, who protected the shah of Iran even though the shah murdered more civilians than Hussein and the al-Assad family put together — not for want of trying, of course.
The West tried wars, through their "friend" Hussein. The West tried embargoes, over and over again. The West even had Iranian nuclear facilities bombed.
Yet here we are, again.
The West has tried everything but reason. The West can't answer Iran's complaints, including the big one: Why is Israel allowed to have 250 nuclear weapons? That coupled with the injustices against the Palestinians makes for a powerful argument that fuels Iranian "President" Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's hysteria. Ahmadinejad continues to use the suffering of Arabs under Western and Israeli occupation as a smokescreen to cover up Iran's own militarism.
We could bomb Iran back to the Stone Age, where their thinking is already. Or, we could undermine them by doing the right thing ourselves. Why doesn't the West, including Israel, make peace with the Palestinians and let the Palestinians have a real state? Or push Israel to destroy its own weapons of mass destruction?
Is Israel really in danger? Despite Iran's religious differences with the Sunni Arab world, they share one important thing: the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem. Iran would never drop a bomb on Israel that would in any way destroy or damage the Dome of the Rock. It is holy not only to Arab Muslims, but to Iranian Muslims, as well.
That would change if the Dome of the Rock were destroyed and the threats of rightwing Israelis became reality.
Of course, this is all just a fairy tale, one that is grim and has deep roots in defining how events may turn out in the very near future. But it is a fairy tale that Israel and the West are helping to write as much as the Iranian ayatollahs.
Ray Hanania is an award-winning Palestinian American columnist. To find out more about Ray Hanania and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit www.creators.com.