Interesting that Mark Steyn can write this piece without ever mentioning the US' ability to use its ICBMs to turn Iran into a flat piece of glass. The strategic nuclear force of the United States (and of the French, Chinese, Soviets and, locally, the Israelis) should be enough to prevent any sane person from entertaining any fantasies of removing Anglo-Saxons, Europeans, Israelis, Soviets, or Chinese people from the face of the Earth. (And don't discount Japan, which could develop a nuclear system in a matter of months if the Japanese people felt truly threatened by North Korea. For now, it exists under the American nuclear shield.)
It never really mattered if "missile defence" works. The system is just one way of deterring nutters, but the Iranians, masters of urban terrorism, know that there's more than one way to transport a bomb. You don't need a Long Dong when you can deliver a nuke to Prague or Warsaw in the trunk of a BMW.
So why not, huh?
Because there's no upside for Tehran. Except for the rent-a-crowds dancing in the streets, the smart Iranians, even the most Jihad-eager, will know the jig is up.
Not that the Iranians ever gave much thought to nuking Warsaw or Prague. The missile defence system was about marking territory in the parts of Europe that were occupied by the Red Army in 1944-45. This is about rolling the Russians back to their late September, 1939 borders (still keeping the half of Poland they seized under the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact of August, 1939, along with East Prussia).
Americans believe the fall of the Soviet empire in Eastern Europe had something to do with American military strength. That's because the American media can't see past New York. The Iron Curtain came down because of the European Union and the power of the West German mark (now renamed the Euro). Russia retreated from Europe because it could offer nothing to compete with the new Germany's political and economic hegemony that had spread into Hungary and the Balkans. P. J. O'Rourke got it right when he said nobody wanted to buy Bulgarian tennis shoes.
Now the old Warsaw Pact countries are members of the EU. They have what they want: Russians back in Russia, real money instead of zloties, freedom to travel, to publish, to listen to Kanye West. Putin may want back into Eastern Europe, to rebuild the Russian Empire to its old Czarist maximum (to the city of Warsaw). He might even want to try for the Elbe and the Danube. But he's up against the EU, especially Germany. And if anyone thinks Germany will give up economic dominance of Poland, the Danube Valley, the Balkans and the Baltic -- the very thing for which it fought two world wars -- they should never underestimate the skill of Germans with fine tools.
But, unless Putin is incredibly dense, this is not 1948. Russia no longer needs a buffer in Eastern Europe (and, in any case, has one with the Ukraine and Byelorussia, which will never be allowed to evolve into anything more that satellites). As Doug Saunders ably points out in the Globe and Mail, this game is about more than the fallout of the events of 1989. The geopolitical centre of trouble has shifted to Iran and the Middle East and will stay there as long as Islamicism remains an aggressive force in the region. There, many of the old rules don't hold -- at least in the minds of the Jihadists. The Russians know better than to use Iran for anything but mischief. Moscow's generals probably look upon the NATO campaign in Afghanistan with some mirth. In return for dropping its troublesome missile shield, Washington may have earned some Russian help in western Asia, the place where American troops are fighting today. But in the end, missile shield or no, the Iranians, the only people in western Asia who are likely to attack anyone with anything resembling a ballistic missile, have the ball.
What they do with it depends on whether they believe their own rhetoric, or if Tehran's nasty talk is just part of the mechanism that keeps the mullahs in power.