Quite a chess game shaping up in Middle Eastern foreign policy matters, extending beyond Iraq and raising the specter of the Iran of a quarter century ago …

Iran is prepared to launch attacks using long-range missiles, secret commando units, and terrorist allies planted around the globe in retaliation for any strike on the country’s nuclear facilities, according to new US intelligence assessments and military specialists.

But military and intelligence analysts warn that Iran — which a recent US intelligence report described as ”more confident and assertive” than it has been since the early days of the 1979 Islamic revolution — could unleash reprisals across the region, and perhaps even inside the United States, if the hard-line regime came under attack.

”When the Americans or Israelis are thinking about [military force], I hope they will sit down and think about everything the ayatollahs could do to make our lives miserable and what we will do to discourage them,” said John Pike, director of the think tank GlobalSecurity.org, referring to Iran’s religious leaders.

”There could be a cycle of escalation.”

Iraq is still looking to be a strategic piece in this escalation game …

Meanwhile, Iranian agents and members of the Revolutionary Guard Corps, widely believed to have a large presence in Iraq, could attempt to foment an uprising by the their fellow Shi’ite majority in Iraq or join insurgents in directly attacking US troops there, Negroponte warned.

He reported that Tehran has ”constrained” itself in Iraq because it is generally satisfied with the political trends in favor of the Shi’ite majority and to avoid giving the United States another excuse to attack Iran. But that could change if Iran were targeted militarily.

A leading Shi’ite cleric in Iraq, Moqtada al-Sadr, whose militia has clashed with US troops and rival Shi’ite groups, vowed in a visit to Tehran last month to defend Iran if it were attacked.

The assessment presented by Negroponte said the Iranian regime already provides ”guidance and training” to militant groups in Iraq and ”has been responsible for at least some of the increasing lethality of anticoalition attacks by providing Shia militants with the capability to build” improvised explosive devices.

Government and private analysts assert that Iran’s intelligence apparatus and Revolutionary Guard Corps could cause serious damage to US efforts to pacify Iraq.

”The Iranian ayatollahs may deploy an ‘asymmetric’ answer and incite a Shi’ite rebellion in Iraq,” the respected Russian military publication ”Defense and Security,” warned last month, referring to a military strategy that employs such tactics as guerrilla warfare. ”That would be disastrous for the United States.”

Man, if you love “no win” situations, this is sure looking to be a case study in the making.

It will take a combination of diplomacy, as well as the willingness to act decisively (translation — a strong military response) if needed, to protect and defend. Problem is we as a nation need to have the stomach to support what may be some unpopular, but necessary, decisions and actions – if the response to the latest Iraqi situation is any indication, it’ll be an even tougher road to trod.

Russia, North Korea, and China would appear to be aligning themselves with Iran …

Who will be the knights and bishops for the West?

Politics East Versus West Game of Chess …