It is easy to see a possible parallel here with the Soviet Union, whose leaders were rattling their sabers as loudly as ever as their socialist empire began to crumble. It is easy to forget now how hopeless the West’s relations were with the Soviet Union in the early 1980s, how gloomy we all seemed about the prospects for peace. Then as now, we had a figure in the White House who was seen by many as warmonger who should never be allowed anywhere near a nuclear button. And yet within a few years the Cold War was over and Reagan and Gorbachev were negotiating away their missiles. It didn’t happen purely thanks to the personalities of Reagan and Gorbachev — important though that was. It happened because the stagnation of the Soviet Union had reached a point at which it became impossible for anyone to pretend that the West was not in a vastly superior economic position.
To push the parallel further, we are with Iran about where we were with the Soviet Union in 1980 — the year that the Thatcher government published its infamous leaflet Protect and Survive. We are bedding down in our bunkers expecting the worst, unable to see a very different outcome. It might not be this year that Iran advances it own internal clock to 1989, the year that the iron curtain was finally pulled down. But I certainly wouldn’t mind a wager than Iran’s theocracy will be gone by the end of this decade and that relations between Iran and the West will be normalized.