Sunday, February 9, 2014

Iranian military threats provide fodder for US/Israel Iran hawks

Apologies for the lengthy absence. Work has been very busy and I hope to have a more substantial post up soon, but for now this will have to do.

There have been quite a few strange stories coming involving Iran over the last few weeks. First there was the gem of a story involving Edward Snowden, Nazis, and space aliens, and now we have another pair of ridiculous bellicose statements coming from Iran. 

Evidently Supreme Leader Khamenei decided that now is as good a time as any to try and get the attention of the West and to demonstrate the power of Iran's navy by sending several ships towards the Atlantic Ocean. Iranian State TV on Friday aired a simulated video of an Iranian counterattack on Tel Aviv, Haifa and Dimona following a hypothetical strike by Israel and/or the United States. So what is to be made of these events?

Other than the typical attempts to gain regional or global attention/recognition, the timing of this is interesting as it comes just after the failed attempt by Iran hawks in the Senate to force another sanctions bill through. Khamenei and the regime are likely emboldened by this, and see an opportunity to exploit an advantageous situation. Because serious nuclear negotiations are ongoing, this provides a perfect opportunity to appease the Supreme Leader's arch-conservative base. Iran by now has realized that the United States is in fact serious about negotiations, and that this can be utilized to the regime's advantage. While in the future Iran may become a world naval power (I would bet my life on this never happening), this looks to be another meaningless gesture, not unlike the claim that Iran was about to build nuclear powered submarines. The computer simulation should be treated the same way, although the real-life capabilities of Iranian missiles and rockets are certainly much more threatening than a few ships floating around the Atlantic Ocean.

Unfortunately, hawks in both Israel and the United States are undoubtedly going to point to these instances as 'proof' that nuclear negotiations are disingenuous. On the bright side, it looks as though this is once again nothing more than a bit of clever politics by the Iranian leader. 

UPDATE: as this EA Worldview post shows, the flotilla was and continues to be a non-story