Are Iran’s Nine Lives Nearing an End?

Victor Davis Hanson
American Greatness


The theocracy of Iran has been the world’s arch-embassy attacker over the last half century.

So it has zero credibility in crying foul over Israel’s April 1 attacks on its “consulate” in Damascus and the killing of Iran’s kingpin terrorists of the Revolutionary Guard Corps there.

Remember, the world was first introduced to the Iranian ayatollahs by their violent takeover of the U.S. embassy in Tehran in 1980.

Iranian surrogates next bombed the American embassy in Beirut and the Marine barracks in 1983.

In fact, Iran has attacked US and Israeli diplomatic posts off-and-on for decades, most recently in 2023, when Iran helped plan an attack on the US embassy in Baghdad.

For this reason and several others, Iran’s justification for sending 170 drones, 30 cruise missiles, and 120 ballistic missiles into Israel on the grounds that Israel had bombed an Iranian diplomatic post is completely ridiculous.

One, Iran has never honored diplomatic immunity. Instead, it habitually attacks and kills embassy personnel and blows up diplomatic facilities across the world.

Two, on April 1, the Israelis attacked a pseudo-“consulate” in Damascus which was hosting grandees of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps as they planned terrorist attacks on Israel.

Without Iran, the Middle East might have had a chance to use its enormous oil and natural gas wealth to lift its 500 million people out of poverty rather than to be mired in constant tribal and religious anti-Israeli, anti-American, and anti-Western terrorism.

During the Iraq War, Iran’s Shiite terrorists and its massive supplies of deadly shaped-charge explosive devices killed hundreds of Americans. It routinely hijacks container ships in the Straits of Hormuz and stages near collisions with American ships and planes.

How does Iran get away with nonstop anti-Western terrorism, its constant harassment of Persian Gulf maritime traffic, its efforts to subvert Sunni moderate regimes, and its serial hostage-taking?

The theocrats operate on three general principles.

One, Iran is careful never to attack a major power directly.

Until this week, it had never sent missiles and drones into Israel. Its economy is one-dimensionally dependent on oil exports. And its paranoid government distrusts its own people, who have no access to free elections.

So Iranian strategy over the last few decades has relied on surrogates—especially expendable Arab Shia terrorists in Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, and Yemen, along with the Sunni Arabs of Hamas—to do its dirty work of killing Israelis and Americans.

It loudly egged all of them on and then cowardly denied responsibility once it feared Israeli or American retaliation.

Two, it has fooled Western governments and especially left-wing American administrations by posing as a persecuted victim. Iran claims it is the champion of aggrieved Shiite Arab and Persian minorities, unfairly exploited by Israel, moderate Arab regimes, and rich Sunni Gulf monarchies.

Three, Iran hopes its pseudo-diplomatic outreach to left-wing Western governments, coupled with its lunatic existential threats and unleashing terrorist attacks on its enemies, can coax or bully the West into granting it concessions—especially time to acquire a dozen or so nuclear weapons.

Yet for all its loud, creepy threats, Iran is incredibly weak and vulnerable.

Israel and its allies shot down almost all its recent nocturnal missile and drone barrages. Lots of other missiles reportedly blew up on liftoff in Iran or crashed in transit.

Before the Biden appeasement of Iran, the Trump administration had isolated and nearly bankrupted Tehran and its proxies. Its Revolutionary Guard terrorist planners proved to be easy targets once they operated outside Iran.

Iran’s only hope is to get a bomb and, with it, nuclear deterrence to prevent retaliation when it increases its terrorist surrogate attacks on Israel, the West, and international commerce.

Yet now Iran may have jumped the shark by attacking the Israeli homeland for the first time. It is learning that it has almost no sympathetic allies.

Does even the Lebanese Hezbollah really want to take revenge against Israel on behalf of Persian Iran, only to see its Shia neighborhoods in Lebanon reduced to rubble?

Do all the pro-Hamas protestors on American campuses and in the streets really want to show Americans they celebrate Iranian attacks and a potential Iranian war against the United States?

Does Iran really believe 99 percent of any future Israel barrage against Iranian targets would fail to hit targets in the fashion that its own recent launches failed?

Does Iran really believe that its sheer incompetence in attacking Israel warrants them a pardon—as if they should be excused for trying, but not succeeding, to kill thousands of Jews?

In sum, by unleashing a terrorist war in the Middle East and targeting the Israeli homeland, Iran may wake up soon and learn Israel, or America, or both might retaliate for a half-century of its terrorist aggression—and mostly to the indifference or even the delight of most of the world.


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33 thoughts on “Are Iran’s Nine Lives Nearing an End?”

  1. Well done VDH. Your historical perspective adds gravitas to events currently unfolding in the Israeli-Hamas war. One can only wonder what Iran has in mind for the near and distant future.

  2. Iran, and its evil leaders, need to learn about consequences.
    Unfortunately, any administration purportedly led by the serial plagiarist and liar, Joe Biden, will never take the necessary steps.
    One hopes that Israel will do so.

  3. Thomas O'Brien

    From VDH’s lips to Trump (47) ears.

    I vote the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps “off the island”, NOW–before they get a nuclear weapon.

    (Have we not already learned our “cost of delay” lesson from North Korea?)

  4. “In sum, by unleashing a terrorist war in the Middle East and targeting the Israeli homeland, Iran may wake up soon and learn Israel, or America, or both might retaliate for a half-century of its terrorist aggression”

    Your lips to God’s ears!

  5. Hopefully, Americans will soon deprive Iran of its most essential weapon – the support of the traitor Biden and the rest of Obama’s 5th column!

  6. Thank you so very much for writing this article. As a (almost) 60 year old woman, I remember the Iran/hostage crisis in 1980. I was a sophomore in high school. While most of my day was devoted to school, marching band practice and friends, I would come home for dinner with the crisis on television each night. It left a forever distrust and loathsomeness of Iran. Since that time, that sector of people continue to burn our flag, create piñatas of our President and while chanting “Death to America”.

    What scares me now is how NOW we see the same behavior in our streets around all of America. Our high educators have continually and methodically pushed this sympathizing rhetoric to what is now our ignorant sheep. My question to you: Is it too late to unwind and save our nation from this ideology?

    Again, thank you for your generosity is sharing your teaching to Americans who want to continue our lifetime of learning.

    Susan Drew

  7. Mr. Victor Davis Hanson,
    You are such an intellectual genius but can present your ideas and opinions even so people such as myself can benefit from reading them. Keep up your fine work sir.

    A big fan from NC

    1. I agree! Victor has the unique ability to reduce complex issues to their basics. Often times, what we might think about events in our daily lives getting things done, he’s able to articulate for us.

  8. Stephen David Cuskley

    Dr. Hanson,

    The chatter says that Iran launched its attack confident that it would be neutralized by Israel.


  9. The sad thing here is most Americans don’t trust our intelligence community any longer, and for good reason, for I don’t trust them either. They, the FBI and CIA, are so focused on what they believe are “internal demons”, that their focus is completely off, both constitutionally and strategically. Eyes inward and not outward. I believe the Iranians already have the nuke. They’re waiting for the right moment to reveal it. They want an over the top response from Israel. Gives them the appearance of having it for their own protection. And when that truth comes to light, if true, the whole world will change in a millisecond. For then Israel will have no choice but to go to war. It will literally at that moment mean self preservation. Iran has already threatened to wipe them off the map. Regardless whether what I believe is true, that day is coming, for everyday we play soft diplomacy, they are either closer and closer to having the bomb, or revealing they have the bomb . We are truly in harms way here. Lack of definitive leadership will always lead to mission compromise. The question will be, what will the consequences be for that lack of leadership?

  10. 70 years of horrendous and non consistent foreign policy decisions coupled with a destabilizing war, that cost American, blood and treasure. Finally Democratic administrations that covertly and directly fund our enemies. Is it a wonder we have arrived at this moment. This coming from an American of Persian descent that is disgusted by the hypocrisy of it all.

  11. Sullivan Augustine

    Attempted murder is attempted murder, regardless of how incompetent the wannabe murderer is.

    Israel should respond in measured fashion. . . Put every large city in Iran in the dark for weeks or months. Wreak at least as much damage on the economy of Iran as the fully amortized cost of the Iron Dome System. And reduce as much of the nuclear research and production facilities in Iran to rubble. Then blandly announce that what Iran just suffered was a mere taste of what it would have done if the Iranian attacks had succeeded in killing many Israelis.

  12. Cyrus The Great, Persian King of Kings, freed the Jews from Babylonian captivity. The people of Iran and the people of Israel are natural allies and not enemies. The problem is the extreme theocracy, and the protection/extortion/corruption regime muscle known as the “revolutionary guards.” Where are the CIA color-revolution experts when we need them (Oh, I forgot, there’s an election coming up in the United States of America in about six months).

  13. Although I agree Iran has miscalculated, Russia is unlikely to let Iran be destroyed. If the Iran strike was a calculated hit, even if a political disaster, then Israel’s response must be a surgical strike which does great damage but does not result in Russian intervention or an all out attack by other Arab countries, or terrorist style attacks on Israelis and Jews in foreign lands.

  14. James Carpenter

    That both Jordan AND Saudi Arabia demonstrated (proactive) sympathies in Israeli favor, NOT Iran’s, indicates a change of tides.
    Mullahs with nukes?
    Nobody thinks that is a good idea.
    And “quiet” coalitions have now agreed to as much.

  15. So… obama and obiden sending cash to Iran and lifting sanctions hasn’t made them be nice to US? I’m shocked!

  16. Mr. Hanson,

    I listen to your show on Amazon Prime, read your articles and will enroll in your online classes at Hillsdale College. (I also love your in-depth discussion of all types of history.)

    The depth of your knowledge in today’s trash-dependent society is something I desperately needed. Sane, highly educated voices.

    Oh, it was disgusting what your former student emailed when back in his home country. Cannot understand the depth of hatred not just from him and his ilk, but what I see here across America in the pro-hamas “protesters,” and liberals in general. Both heartbreaking and sickening.

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts, knowledge and understanding.

    God bless you,


  17. As far as I can determine, Iran should be tried and found guilty of first degree attempted murder which, even in a liberal state like California, carries a life term. The attack was pre-meditated, intentional and motivated and needs to be punished to the max. Allowing them to get away with it is akin to condoning it in some weird way. The mullahs all need to turn themselves in to face the music and spare the innocent citizenry they rule over.

  18. Has anyone considered that Iran might be playing a long game in view of the world stage anti-semitism in order to get other nations to join them in wiping Israel off the map; no nukes needed. They knew their arsenal thrown at Israel would fail, badly probably, but it would generate a ton of anti-empathy for Israel; and, by the looks of things, it’s done just that.

  19. It’s past time to preemptively destroy Irans nuclear capability. Whether it’s the US or the Israelis, someone has to put an end to the threat, or we will look back and wonder why we did not.

  20. Mr. Hanson, your posts are always so enlightening. If asked, would you ever take the position of Secretary of State in our Government????

  21. I don’t see the U.S. ever retaliating full throttle against Iran. Even a Republican administration won’t though it would still be more aggressive in authorizing strategic attacks as President Trump previously did.

  22. Professor Hanson, you ask, “Do all the pro-Hamas protestors on American campuses and in the streets really want to show Americans they celebrate Iranian attacks and a potential Iranian war against the United States?”

    I’m afraid the answer is “yes.”

  23. Dear Professor Hanson,

    As an Iranian, I’ve immersed myself in your literary works and eagerly absorbed your online lectures. Your profound insights have been invaluable to me, and I eagerly await further enlightenment, particularly regarding Iran.

    The struggle against our oppressive regime persists in Iran. Countless Iranians have sacrificed their lives in this battle against tyranny, with many enduring torture and imprisonment. Despite our hopes for support from Western governments, administrations like those of Carter, Obama, and Biden have regrettably failed us, persisting in fueling the government’s oppression of the Iranian people and channeling funds to their terror networks across the Middle East.

    Contrary to popular misconceptions, Iranian identity is not rooted in antisemitism. Our history, from the days of Cyrus the Great to the reign of the late Shah, attests to this. Islam has never truly aligned with the essence of Iranian self-identity. Iranian self-identity is based on Zoroastrian values, emphasizing the appreciation of life and the pursuit of truthfulness, righteousness, good deeds, virtuous life, and the pursuit of moral excellence.

    I fervently hope that the recent conflicts shed light on the true nature of this Islamic tyranny to the Western world. May it galvanize them to stand alongside the Iranian people in our quest for a constitutional democracy, one that fosters close alliances with Western nations and Israel.

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