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Iran in particular has reason to feel jumpy: it's all but encircled, with a US presence in Iraq, Afghanistan, Turkmenistan and all along the Persian Gulf waterway.
That logic - what one former Clinton official calls "pre-empting the pre-emption" - might appeal to Iran and the newest member of the axis club, Syria. Both countries can now feel America's hot breath on their necks, with US forces right on their borders. Iran in particular has reason to feel jumpy: it's all but encircled, with a US presence in Iraq, Afghanistan, Turkmenistan and all along the Persian Gulf waterway.
So will Tehran take the Pyongyang remedy, seeking a nuclear buffer to protect it from US might? There are grounds for that suspicion. Iran has shown an unusually active interest in nuclear energy for a country with the second largest natural gas reserves in the world. Since gas is cheaper and more efficient than nuclear power, it is rather suspicious that Tehran is so keen on building nuclear generators. And it has hardly been open about its plans.
But all this forgets a basic fact about the Islamic republic: it has two governments. The conservative old guard may well be stuck in a confrontational posture with the US, but reformers around President Mohammed Khatami are not keen to provoke Washington.