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There is evidence that the introspective Shah recently began to realize that the end was coming, though he remained immobilized and unable to accept the fact that his grand scheme had failed. When TIME Correspondent Dean Brelis asked him in late November what he felt had been his biggest mistake, the Shah answered sadly: "Being born." On another occasion, he wondered aloud how many of his people would go into the streets to cheer and support him as a million Frenchmen once did for Charles de Gaulle during his hour of need. Says a Western diplomat in Tehran: "I doubt that a thousand Iranians would be willing to go into the streets for the Shah today."
The conditions that make for instability along the arc vary greatly from country to country, and it would be imprudent to apply the cold war domino theory to the area. "There may be a bunch of dominoes," says a Western diplomat, "but they're not leaning against each other, end on end." Nonetheless, it is also apparent that what happens next in Iran could have an important effect on the whole region. The international rivalry that Rudyard Kipling once described as "the great game" for control of the warm-weather ports and lucrative trade routes between Suez and the Bay of Bengal is still being played, except that the chief contestants today are not imperial Britain and czarist Russia but the U.S. and the Soviet Union, and the big prize is not trade but oil. Former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger (see interview) long has argued that in a situation of what he called "rough parity" between Moscow and Washington, the global balance could be profoundly affected by events at the regional leveland, in recent years, the tide throughout the crescent of crisis could be construed to have been running in Moscow's favor.
To be sure, Egypt threw out the Russians in 1972 and established close ties with Washington. India, in a stunning demonstration of the democratic process two years ago, defeated Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, thereby bringing an end to both her authoritarian rule and her Soviet-leaning foreign policy. The Russians lost their special relationship with Somalia, as well as their excellent port at Berbera, because they got too greedy and tried at the same time to reach an accommodation with Somalia's neighbor and ancient enemy, Ethiopia.
On the other hand, governments that were strongly pro-Western have either fallen or been weakened in Iran, Turkey and Pakistan. Pro-Moscow regimes have come to power in Ethiopia, Afghanistan and South Yemen. The collapse of the Portuguese colonial empire gave the Russians new opportunities in southern Africa. Soviet naval vessels now call at ports from Mozambique to Viet Nam.
In the early 1970s, with more than 300,000 U.S. troops in Viet Nam, the Nixon Doctrine enabled Washington to speed up sales and gifts of weapons to important allies, without also sending troops. Iran was one of the chief beneficiaries, receiving $14 billion worth of military goods between 1972 and 1978. The Carter Administration continued the policy of supplying arms to "regional influentials," including Iran, Saudi Arabia and Turkey. Turkey has the largest standing army of any NATO country apart from the U.S.,