AND Tehran will get worse if it builds a nuclear weapon.

CAN anyone doubt the danger of Iran’s relentless drive to become the regional hegemon? The Iranians are funding Afghan President Hamid Karzai as well as supplying weapons and military training to the Taliban. Iran continues to supply Hamas, with a shipment of Katyusha rockets seized in the Nigerian port of Apapa while on the way from Iran to Gaza, a circuitous route aimed at circumventing Israeli surveillance.

And, almost eight months after the election in Iraq, Tehran is busily seeking to shape the membership and allegiances of a much needed new government in Baghdad, with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad intervening to ensure pliant Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki stays in power. On top of all this, Mr Ahmadinejad was welcomed like a conquering hero last month by supporters of Hezbollah, the Iranian-backed Shia militant movement in Lebanon.

While Iran has agreed to discuss its nuclear program with the permanent members of the Security Council, plus Germany, it would be misplaced to expect much will come of it. On the weekend, Mr Ahmadinejad dismissed sanctions againstIran’s weapons program as torn paper that did nothing to hurt his regime. It’s time for the world to act more boldly and confront him in ways to make him think again.