Opinion Brief

Iran's Feb. 11 surprise

Ahmadinejad has ominously promised that Iran will deliver a blow against the West on 2/11. Should we be worried?

Iranian president Mahmoud Amadinejad has issued a mysterious threat against the West, promising to strike a "telling blow" on February 11, the 31st anniversary of the country's Islamic Revolution. Iran's supreme leader and commander-in-chief Ayatollah Ali Khamenei reiterated the threat on Monday, declaring that Iran will "punch" Western powers on that day "in a way that will leave them stunned." The murky declarations come amid reports that Iranian dissidents are planning to protest during Thursday's official anniversary celebrations. Are Iran's leaders just posturing, or do they have something dangerous planned? (Watch a report about Iran's February 11 threat)

It's the protesters, not the West, who should be afraid: An "obvious possibility" for February 11 is "a massive, Chinese-style crackdown" on Iranian protesters, who Khamenei believes are "foreign-based and foreign-controlled," says Michael Ledeen at Pajamas Media. This prognosis corresponds with predictions from Mir Hossein Mousavi, leader of the opposition. And a "devastating massacre" of protesters would certainly "count as a big 'punch' to the West.""What is Iran planning for Thursday?"

Don't believe the hype: All this bluster is all just a "desperate attempt by the ruling hardline conservatives to distract attention from their domestic travails," says Con Coughlin in the London Telegraph. Iran's leaders currently face a "pro-reform movement" that "shows no sign of abating...despite the brutal tactics" being used against them. The crazy threats simply highlight the government's weakening hold on power."Iran's mullahs are desperately trying to pick a fight with the West to save their own skin"

The West needs to stay calm: There's the fanciful scenario of Iran testing a nuke on 2/11 — but more within the realm of reason is "some sort of longer-range missile test," say Mark Hosenball and Katie Paul in Newsweek. Honestly, that "hardly constitute[s] a threat worth hyperventilating over." The real danger, however, is that the West overracts and retaliates. That could set the Middle East ablaze in conflict."What Iran's punch to the West might be"

Iran may be bluffing — but the threat is real: The United States may not be "under direct physical threat," says Julie Bishop in the Sydney Morning Herald. But remember, "Iran has the ability to disrupt oil shipments from the Middle East" among other things. Yes, the "threatened 'punch' could be another bluff" — but it could also be "the beginning" of a new and "dangerous chapter" for Iran."The diabolical Iranian dilemma"

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SEE MORE OF THE WEEK'S COVERAGE OF IRAN:Is Iran at a tipping point?
Iran: Hope for a nuclear deal?Iran's nuclear poker game

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