If the mullahs aren’t overthrown, the New Middle East will be a very
dark and dangerous place.

A new Middle East is upon us and its primary beneficiary couldn’t be
happier. In a speech Monday in the Iranian city of Kermanshah, Iranian
Revolutionary Guards’ Politburo Chief Gen. Yadollah Javani crowed,
“Iran’s pivotal role in the New Middle East is undeniable.

Today the Islamic Revolution of the Iranian nation enjoys such a
power, honor and respect in the world that all nations and governments
wish to have such a ruling system.”

Iran’s leaders have eagerly thrown their newfound weight around. For
instance, Iran is challenging Saudi Arabia’s ability to guarantee the
stability of global oil markets.

For generations, the stability of global oil supplies has been
guaranteed by Saudi Arabia’s reserve capacity that could be relied on
to make up for any shocks to those supplies due to political unrest or
other factors. When Libya’s teetering dictator Muammar Gaddafi decided
to shut down Libya’s oil exports last month, the oil markets reacted
with a sharp increase in prices. The very next day the Saudis
announced they would make up the shortfall from Libya’s withdrawal
from the export market.

In the old Middle East, the Saudi statement would never have been
questioned. Oil suppliers and purchasers alike accepted the
arrangement whereby Saudi Arabian reserves ­ defended by the US
military ­ served as the guarantor of the oil economy. But in the New
Middle East, Iran feels comfortable questioning the Saudi role.

On Thursday, Iran’s Oil Minister Massoud Mirkazemi urged Saudi Arabia
to refrain from increasing production. Mirkazemi argued that since the
OPEC oil cartel has not discussed increasing supplies, Saudi Arabia
had no right to increase its oil output.

True, Iran’s veiled threat did not stop Saudi Arabia from increasing
its oil production by 500,000 barrels per day. But the fact that Iran
feels comfortable telling the Saudis what they can and cannot do with
their oil demonstrates the mullocracy’s new sense of empowerment.

And it makes sense. With each passing day, the Iranian regime is
actively destabilizing Saudi Arabia’s neighbors and increasing its
influence over Saudi Arabia’s Shi’ite minority in the kingdom’s
Eastern Province where most of its oil is located.

Perhaps moved by the political unrest in Bahrain and Yemen, Saudi
regime opponents including Saudi Arabia’s Shi’ite minority have
stepped up their acts of political opposition. The Saudi royal family
has sought to buy off its opponents by showering its subjects with
billions of dollars in new subsidies and payoffs. But still the tide
of dissent rises.

Saudi regime opponents have scheduled political protests for March 11
and March 20. In an attempt to blunt the force of the demonstrations,
Saudi security forces arrested Tawfiq al- Amir, a prominent Shi’ite
cleric from the Eastern Province. On February 25, Amir delivered a
sermon calling for the transformation of the kingdom into a
constitutional monarchy.

Iran has used his arrest to pressure the Saudi regime. In an interview
with Iran’s Fars news agency this week, Iranian parliamentarian and
regime heavyweight Mohammed Dehqan warned the Saudis not to try to
quell the growing unrest. As he put it, the Saudi leaders “should know
that the Saudi people have become vigilant and do not allow the rulers
of the country to commit any possible crime against them.”

Dehqan continued, “Considering that the developments in Bahrain and
Yemen affect the situation in Saudi Arabia, the [regime] feels grave
danger and interferes in the internal affairs of these states.”

Dehqan’s statement is indicative of the mullah’s confidence in the
direction the region is taking.

In testimony before the Senate Appropriations Committee on Tuesday, US
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton acknowledged that Iran is deeply
involved in all the anti-regime protests and movements from Egypt to
Yemen to Bahrain and beyond.

“Either directly or through proxies, they are constantly trying to
influence events. They have a very active diplomatic foreign policy
outreach,” Clinton said.

Iranian officials, Hezbollah and Hamas terrorists and other Iranian
agents have played pivotal roles in the anti-regime movements in Yemen
and Bahrain. Their operations are the product of Iran’s long-running
policy of developing close ties to opposition figures in these
countries as well as in Egypt, Kuwait, Oman and Morocco.

These long-developed ties are reaping great rewards for Iran today.
Not only do these connections give the Iranians the ability to
influence the policies of post-revolutionary allied regimes.

They give the mullahs and their allies the ability to intimidate the
likes of the Saudi and Bahraini royals and force them to appease
Iran’s allies.

THIS MEANS that Iran’s mullahs win no matter how the revolts pan out.
If weakened regimes maintain power by appeasing Iran’s allies in the
opposition ­ as they are trying to do in Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco,
Algeria, Bahrain, Oman and Yemen ­ then Iranian influence over the
weakened regimes will grow substantially. And if Iran’s allies topple
the regimes, then Iran’s influence will increase even more steeply.

Moreover, Iran’s preference for proxy wars and asymmetric battles is
served well by the current instability. Iran’s proxies ­ from
Hezbollah to al- Qaida to Hamas ­ operate best in weak states.

From Hezbollah’s operations in South Lebanon in the 1980s and 1990s,
to the Iranian-sponsored Iraqi insurgents in recent years and beyond,
Iran has exploited weak central authorities to undermine pro-Western
governments, weaken Israel and diminish US regional influence.

In the midst of Egypt’s revolutionary violence, Iran quickly deployed
its Hamas proxies to Sinai.

Since Mubarak’s fall, Iran has worked intensively to expand its proxy
forces’ capacity to operate freely in Sinai.

Recognition of Iran’s expanded power is fast altering the
international community’s perception of the regional balance of
forces. Russia’s announcement last Saturday that it will sell Syria
the Yakhont supersonic anti-ship cruise missile was a testament to
Iran’s rising regional power and the US’s loss of power.

Russia signed a deal to provide the missiles to Syria in 2007. But
Moscow abstained from supplying them until now ­ just after Iran
sailed its naval ships unmolested to Syria through the Suez Canal and
signed a naval treaty with Syria effectively fusing the Iranian and
Syrian navies.

So, too, Russia’s announcement that it sides with Iran’s ally Turkey
in its support for reducing UN Security Council sanctions against Iran
indicates that the US no longer has the regional posture necessary to
contain Iran on the international stage.

Iran’s increased regional power and its concomitant expanded leverage
in international oil markets will make it impossible for the US to win
UN Security Council support for more stringent sanctions against
Tehran. Obviously, UN Security Council-sanctioned military action
against Iran’s nuclear installations is out of the question.

Unfortunately, the Obama administration has failed completely to
understand what is happening.

Clinton told the House of Representatives and the Senate that Iran’s
increased power means that the US should continue to arm and fund
Iran’s allies and support the so-called democratic forces that are
allied with Iran.

So it was that Clinton told the Senate that the Obama administration
thinks it is essential to continue to supply the Hezbollah-controlled
Lebanese military with US arms. Clinton claimed that she couldn’t say
what Hezbollah control over the Lebanese government meant regarding
the future of US ties to Lebanon.

So, too, while Palestinian Authority leaders burn President Barack
Obama in effigy and seek to form a unity government with Iran’s Hamas
proxy, Clinton gave an impassioned defense of US funding for the PA to
the House Foreign Relations Committee this week.

Clinton’s behavior bespeaks a stunning failure to understand the basic
realities she and the State Department she leads are supposed to
shape. Her lack of comprehension is matched only by her colleague
Defense Secretary Robert Gates’ lack of shame and nerve. In a press
conference this week, Gates claimed that Iran is weakened by the
populist waves in the Arab world because Iran’s leaders are violently
oppressing their political opponents.

In light of the Obama administration’s refusal to use US military
force for even the most minor missions ­ like evacuating US citizens
from Libya ­ without UN approval, it is apparent that the US will not
use armed force against Iran for as long as Obama is in power.

And given the administration’s refusal to expend any effort to protect
US interests and allies in the region lest the US be accused of acting
like a superpower, it is clear that US allies like the Saudis will not
be able to depend on America to defend the regime. This is the case
despite the fact that its overthrow would threaten the US’s core
regional interests.

AGAINST THIS backdrop, it is clear that the only way to curb Iran’s
influence in the region and so strike a major blow against its rising
Shi’ite-Sunni jihadist alliance is to actively support the
prodemocracy regime opponents in Iran’s Green Movement. The only
chance of preventing Iran from plunging the region into war and
bloodshed is if the regime is overthrown.

So long as the Iranian regime remains in power, it will be that much
harder for the Egyptians to build an open democracy or for the Saudis
to open the kingdom to liberal voices and influences. The same is true
of almost every country in the region. Iran is the primary regional
engine of war, terror, nuclear proliferation and instability. As long
as the regime survives, it will be difficult for liberal forces in the
region to gain strength and influence.

On February 24, the mullahs reportedly arrested opposition leaders Mir
Hossain Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi along with their wives. It took the
Obama administration several days to even acknowledge the arrests, let
alone denounce them.

In the face of massive regime violence, Iran’s anti-regime protesters
are out in force in cities throughout the country demanding their
freedom and a new regime. And yet, aside from paying lip service to
their bravery, neither the US nor any other government has come
forward to help them. No one has supplied Iran’s embattled
revolutionaries with proxy servers after the regime brought down their
Internet communications networks. No one has given them arms.

No one has demanded that Iran be thrown out of all UN bodies pending
the regime’s release of the Mousavis and Karroubis and the thousands
of political prisoners being tortured in the mullah’s jails. No one
has stepped up to fund around-the-clock anti-regime broadcasts into
Iran to help regime opponents organize and coordinate their
operations. Certainly no one has discussed instituting a no-fly zone
over Iran to protect the protesters.

With steeply rising oil prices and the real prospect of al-Qaida
taking over Yemen, Iranian proxies taking over Bahrain, and the Muslim
Brotherhood controlling Egypt, some Americans are recognizing that not
all revolutions are Washingtonian.

But there is a high likelihood that an Iranian revolution would be. At
a minimum, a democratic Iran would be far less dangerous to the region
and the world than the current regime.

The Iranians are right. We are moving into a new Middle East. And if
the mullahs aren’t overthrown, the New Middle East will be a very dark
and dangerous place.