For some time Iran has been supporting radical Shia militias in Iraq. The Iranians apparently are now calling on these groups to support it in the impending confrontation with the U.N. over Iran's nuclear weapons program. Reportedly the Iranians have told the leaders of several Iraqi Shia militia groups to initiate attacks against Coalition forces if the UN Security Council imposes sanctions on Iran. The extent to which the Iraqi radical Shiites will cooperate is difficult to determine. To be sure, Moqtada al-Sadr, head of a faction that has attacked the government and Coalition before, has issued assurance that his followers will support Iran if Iran is attacked, it's not at all clear what most of the other Shia groups will do. Some of them may find themselves caught between a rock and a hard place, unwilling to attack the government and Coalition because they provide protection from Sunni extremist, but unwilling to antagonize Iran, which has been providing financial and logistical support. And even Sadr may be hedging his bets; his promise to Iran is to support it if it is "attacked," while the Iranians want him to take action if sanctions are imposed.
February 15, 2006: There appear to be two different attitudes towards Iran getting nuclear weapons. On the pragmatic front, we have nations like China and Russia, who take it for granted that Iran will get nukes. The attitude is, "so what?" China and Russia believe that if Iran tries, or does, use nukes against them, they will obliterate Iran with their own, much more powerful nuclear weapons. That will eliminate the Iranian nuke problem, and send a clear message to other new nuclear nations.
But most of the rest of the world believes it is possible to prevent Iran from getting nukes, and are not willing to risk even a limited nuclear war. The no-nukes crowd is led by the United States, Israel and most of Europe. The French, however, lean more towards the pragmatic view, and are equipping their nuclear missiles with technology that will destroy all the electronics in, say, Iran (using optimized EMP warheads.) The wild card in all this is the unpredictability of the Islamic radicals that dominate the Iranian government. Many of these officials believe in Islam conquering the world, and that they are on a mission from God. While diplomats like to talk about "rational actors," history is also replete with many irrational leaders of nations and political movements. While the Iranian Islamic radicals have not, in the past, been aggressive in their support of terrorist attacks against other countries, especially Western ones, there is fear that this could change. Most countries don't believe Iran would risk turning a nuclear weapon over to terrorists. More likely is Iran using its nukes to back up threats against its neighbors. This upsets Iran's neighbors, and Western nations that support those neighbors. It is uncertain what the Western nations will do about Iran's potential nuclear weapons. Talk about American and/or Israel launching an air strike against Iran's nuclear weapons facilities has been, for years, just talk.
February 10, 2006: Iran is developing good weapons supplier relations with China and Russia. The arms industries in both nations are eager for export sales, and are not too concerned what the rest of the world thinks about it. Iran is also willing to pay a little (or a lot) extra to government officials who can help expedite the sale and shipment of modern weapons. Complaints by Western nations about these arms sales are basically ignored.