When Iran's supreme religious leader looked out on his nation's strategic landscape in mid-November, he saw many gathering storm clouds. Enemies were readying tougher sanctions – perhaps to embargo oil, Iran's economic lifeblood. They were killing Iranian nuclear scientists. They had sent a computer virus to disrupt Iran's uranium enrichment. Their agents were reportedly inside Iran, replacing street signs and bricks in buildings with new ones equipped with radiation detectors.
And the United Nations nuclear watchdog had just published details of alleged "systematic" nuclear weapons-related work by Iran through late 2003, and declared of "particular concern" more episodic work as recently as 2009 – prompting fresh global opprobrium.
So Ayatollah Ali Khamenei issued a warning. "Iran is not a nation to sit still and just observe threats from fragile materialistic powers which are being eaten by worms from inside," he told military college students in Tehran. "Iran will respond with full force to any aggression or even threats in a way that will demolish the aggressors from within."
Since then, Mr. Khamenei has stayed true to his promise. When the US and Israel staged or announced military exercises in the neighborhood, so did Iran, unveiling new rocket and missile capabilities.