Iran’s population is more than double the size of Iraq’s, and it is four times larger than Iraq in total landmass. Iran is a more homogeneous nation, less susceptible to fracturing amongst its minorities- precisely the condition that made Iraq easier to subdue (though not occupy).
Iran is also wealthier than Iraq- unlike the latter, Iran seems to be tapping its oil wealth with relative efficiency. Furthermore, Iran has a formidable army- and well known arms.
War with Iran is extraordinarily dangerous. Either this administration is not serious in its saber rattling, or it deems the stakes especially high- high enough to warrant huge sacrifices, which, thanks to our experience in Iraq, we can already imagine too well.
In taking on Iran, this White House is indirectly aiming at our ascendant competitors in the 21st century: Russia, China, perhaps also India.
China’s growing power is increasingly demanding of oil. Undermining Iran, a prominent oil resource for China, frustrates Beijing’s rise. If war with Iran spikes the price of oil, China and India will be gravely wounded (as will the entire developing world). As for Russia, Putin has made it abundantly clear that Moscow intends to be a global power to reckon with in the 21st century- a power underwritten by astonishing native oil wealth.
Iran is no third front in the War on Terror. War with Iran is a step beyond, to a new global conflict- a new Cold War, in a way- where the US plays its cards (in this case, the largest military in the world) to frustrate its opponents indirectly. [Excerpt of article by Firmin DeBrabander, Maryland Institute College of Art, Baltimore]