From an article in the Oct. 24-30 edition of The Economist:

So far, the West's attempt to stop Iran attacking neutral ships on their way to and from neutral ports in the Gulf has gone pretty smoothly. The longer it goes on, with or without some really big bangs, the harder it will probably get. Warships could be hit, aircraft shot down, sailors and pilots killed. People in America and the five European countries that have joined the operation may start to flinch, parliaments to nag; one of the European countries may lose its nerve; and the whole operation could begin to unravel. That is the danger of things dragging inconclusively on.

It is fine with Iran if things do just that. This gives the Iranian army time to prepare another ''final offensive'' designed to break Iraq and shake the rest of the Arab world. So Iran carefully measures its pinpricks, aiming to sting the West but not to provoke it into a stunning counter-blow. The West, anxious not to have its warships stuck there interminably, wants the United Nations to impose an arms embargo on the Iranians if they will not agree to stop the Gulf war. But Russia continues to block this embargo, in effect cheering Ayatollah Khomeini on.

But does Mr. Gorbachev, busy with his decrepit economy and his recalcitrant party, grasp all the implications of his country's current policy in the Gulf? The Russians are playing with fire. An Iranian victory over Iraq would be almost as bad for Russia as it would be for the West.. . . Russia and the West would regard the spread of militant Islam deeper into the Arab world -- the likely effect of an Iraqi collapse -- with equal horror. Yet Russia is at the moment making an Iranian victory, and an Iraqi collapse, and those horrifying consequences, more likely to happen.