Rabbah Bar Hanah told in the name of Rabbi Yohanan in the name of Rabbi Yehuda ben Rabbi Yillai, “In future, Rome will fall to Persia…” Rav said, “In future, Persia will fall to Romans.”

Don’t take me wrong, I’m all for bombing Iran, nuking its underground and mountain labs, and slapping the mullahs. That is important if we are to reinstate Israeli deterrence, our regional hegemony, and most importantly, Jewish self-confidence. Like after the 1981 Osiraq bombing, a squall of international condemnations would ensue and recede to nil after a month.

Strategically, however, Iran is not the problem. Like the USSR in its last days, Iran seems monstrously dangerous, but it is really an earthen colossus. Mounting domestic demands for welfare eat into the declining oil profits. The Iranian drive to export natural gas to Europe puts it on a collision course with Russia.

Being hardly able to bear its domestic economic troubles, Iran provides only a small amount of aid to foreign proxies: a few Shiite schools and hospitals in Africa pale in comparison with Saudi Sunni expansion, and mere tens of millions of dollars in aid to Hamas and Hezbollah is negligible compared to Israeli investment in the SLA or the American investment in Fatah. Iran is still on the offensive for a single reason, namely that no country has mounted a determined opposition to its expansion. Giving Fatah a bit more weaponry, higher salaries, and a green light for summary executions would wipe out Hamas in a matter of weeks. Massive military aid to Lebanese Druze rather than the army, coupled with the promise of autonomy, would do away with Hezbollah’s dominance of Lebanon, incidentally doing away with the Shiites.

Just like the Soviets, Iran can only be understood by emphasizing its cowardice, which in the case of Iran is rooted in the national mentality, internal instability, and the ayatollahs’ old age. Iran has not started a single offensive war in recent history. Too cowardly to fight openly, Iran resorts to proxy conflicts—thus its support for Hamas and Hezbollah—and cooperation with Syria. But winning on the cheap is impossible; it’s only cheap to fan the conflicts. That was a trademark Soviet policy, and now Iran bullies the region rather than threatens it.

Unable to fund an offensive army, Iran purchases defense systems to continue bugging its neighbors without fear. It resorts to notorious but practically useless nuclear weapons. In strategic terms, Iran represents no threat whatsoever.

Empires are costly, and Iran cannot fund its ambitions. The mullahs are overextended, and the populace hates the unpopular regime. Iran amounts to a dog which barks loudly lest it be forced to bite.

In a curious parallel, the United States made a political u-turn and now supports Iranian regional dominance—just as it did with the Soviet Union during its last days. Afraid of changes, American diplomats pleaded with the Soviet republics to stay in the union rather than declare independence. Then the United States accepted Russia’s “natural” hegemony in the region and watched as it effectively converted the former Soviet republics into satellites. The same fear of change underlies Obama’s current policy: he would rather accept a nuclear Iran which promises to hold the Middle East in check than continue the incessant struggle between Israel and the Sunni regimes, Israel and Hamas, and the Sunnis and Shiites.

The resurgence of Iran’s fundamentalists is the remission in their death pangs. Ahmadinejad is the Revolutionary Guards’ only political asset, and too many Iranians are fed up with him—though not to the point of electing his rival. Likewise, the KGB’s fundamentalism resurged in the Soviet Union a few years before its demise when the KGB’s head, Andropov, was appointed the Communist Party’s Secretary General. Speaking of Ahmadinejad, Israel’s best bet would be to shoot down his plane during one of his numerous state visits.

Traditional sanctions are worthless against poor states. They worked against the affluent South African and Rhodesian whites, but failed against North Korea and Iraq. The latter even exported its oil illegally while besieged by foreign troops. The sanctions against Iran deliberately leave a loophole: the United Arab Emirates serves as a shipping and financial hub for Iran. Despite the massive presence of the American Navy in the Persian Gulf, the transshipment of Iranian goods to and from UAE continues unabated. UAE is an American ally so important that, uniquely, it received friend-or-foe codes for its American fighter jets; the only conceivable reason for obtaining the codes is the ability to target similar Israeli planes. The UAE can only continue its role as the Iranian financial clearing house with America’s explicit approval. Closing the UAE loophole would cripple Iran, and the simple move of closing the Persian Gulf to Iranian oil shipments would bring the regime to its knees in a matter of weeks. Israel does not even need the UN for that job; drones and Navy commandos can bring the Iranian oil trade to a halt, given some courage on the part of Israeli decision-makers.

The Iranian regime cannot be changed democratically because the ayatollahs pre-approve presidential candidates, who at any rate wield very little power compared to the chief ayatollah and the head of Iran’s religious council. The West can refuse recognition to the Iranian president on the grounds that he was not elected democratically, as non-compliant candidates were weeded out. In the end, the ayatollahs can be removed only in the way they came to power: through popular unrest. Given the fact that the Iranians are notoriously nice and not prone to street violence, the amount of propaganda and opposition financing must be very significant. The best platform for tearing down the regime is welfare: while politically correct under Islamic law, it would increase budgetary expenses already strained by sanctions. Economic troubles offer the best chance for grassroots opposition to the ayatollahs.

The US-backed Iranian dominance pushes Israel into an alliance with Egypt. We have tried that before—and Babylon has won and ruined our country. Geographically, Iran cannot conduct a major war with Israel, but only with Egypt and Israel. Strategically, our ally is not really the country of Egypt, but its secular leadership. Even the Egyptian middle class dislikes Israel, and the Islamic Brotherhood, the dominant opposition group, is aligned with Iran. A political change in Egypt, which is highly probable, would tear Egypt from Israel and align it with Iran.

While there is no need to be hysterical over Iran, there is every reason to lose sleep over Pakistan and North Korea. Their rogue population and rogue government, respectively, constitute an existential threat to Israel. Unless North Korean nuclear facilities are bombed immediately, and Pakistan is partitioned into a secular nuclear state and a backward Taliban state, nuclear bombs will soon come into the hands of Islamic terrorists. At that point, we will only be able to soothe ourselves with the assumption that a ground-level nuclear explosion in Haifa port won’t kill more than twenty thousand people, and many Arabs among them.