Western problems with Iran go far beyond the issue of Iran’s possible nuclear weapons capability. Iran seeks to dominate the Middle East, as discussed in the Nov. 21 op-ed “The larger Iran danger,” by Joseph Lieberman and Vance Serchuk, and it has been building a series of alliances in order to do so. Western leaders can’t afford to become so preoccupied with the nuclear weapons issue that they ignore this far more immediate and ominous threat.

Yet this has been a bad year or two for Iran. Sanctions have seriously damaged the Iranian economy and, largely as a result, internal dissent has become more significant. Further, Iran’s principal ally, Syria, has virtually destroyed itself. Regardless of who wins the Syrian war, the country will emerge enfeebled and far less able to back Iran even if it wants to. Another ally, Hezbollah in Lebanon, was suckered into sending its men to fight and die for the hated Syrian regime, which resulted in it losing some of its grip on its followers. Still another ally, Hamas in the Gaza Strip, supported rebels in the Sinai in Egypt and the result was that the Egyptian army has heavily attacked these rebels and closed the tunnels that have fed the Gaza population. Afghanistan is in perpetual chaos. The new Shiite leadership in Iraq, favored by Iran, has generated new and powerful Sunni opposition, and that country is one step short of civil war.

The questions for Western leaders: How serious is the Iranian threat when its alliance is in such a deteriorated state? Can and should the West aid and abet this deterioration? Does the West have to take drastic action when Iran and its friends are so skilled at self-destruction?

Charles F. Bingman, Falls Church