Thursday, April 06, 2006
Iran: On The Verge?
Thanks to two posts at Powerline, some disturbing thoughts.
To begin with, Michael Ledeen's February 17, 2006 NRO article said:
Sometime in late November or early December, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei gathered his top advisers for an overall strategic review. The atmosphere was highly charged, because Khamenei’s doctors have diagnosed a serious cancer, and do not expect the Supreme Leader to live much more than a year. A succession struggle is already under way, with the apparently unsinkable Hashemi Rafsanjani in the thick of it, even though Khamenei, and his increasingly powerful son Mushtaba, is opposed to the perennial candidate-for-whatever.(emphasis added)
Despite this disquieting news, the overall tone of the conversation was upbeat, because the Iranians believe they see many positive developments, above all, the declaration that "it has been promised that by 8 April, we will be in a position to show the entire world that 'we are members of the club.'" This presumably refers to nuclear weapons...
Khamenei called for two urgent missions. The first was to do everything possible to drive up oil prices by an additional 30 percent by the first week in April. The second was to intensify the propaganda war against the West in the same period. He stressed that it was important to compel the United States to face at least three crises by the April 8.
Is this just bluster? Perhaps, but I highly doubt it. Cultures that attach great importance to 'face', or appearances of dishonor, do not make such pronouncements lightly; in particular, they do not announce specific dates lightly.
(Israel has known this for a long time. Israeli politicans are fond of saying that, when a Muslim dictator announces outlandish plans, the world laughs, but Israel takes the pronouncement seriously; the implied capabilities may not be accurate, but the implied intentions are. When Saddam Hussein announced in the summer of 1990 that he would "incinerate half of Israel", Israel knew he meant it... and six months later, Iraqi Scud missiles were landing in Tel Aviv.)
Is this just internal bravado, not intended for consumption outside Iran? I think not. Iran's "Great Prophet" military exercises, being conducted this week, have included several new-weapon showpieces -- missiles, high-speed torpedoes, stealth technology-- that are being boasted of openly, and are clearly intended to frighten. Moreover, with another hat-tip to Powerline, have a look at this USA Today article:
TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran said Wednesday it has successfully test-fired a "top secret" missile, the third in a week, state-run television reported.All this is very consistent with the April 8 deadlines mentioned above.
The report called the missile an "ultra-horizon" weapon and said it could be fired from all military helicopters and jet fighters.
The tests came amid war games being held since Friday by the elite Revolutionary Guards in the Persian Gulf and the Arabian Sea at a time of increased tension with the United States over Tehran's nuclear program.
Iranian television called it a "turning point" in its missile tests but gave no other details.
At the same time, the head of the Revolutionary Guards, Gen. Yahya Rahim Safavi, said the United States must recognize Iran as a "big, regional power."
Speaking on state television, Safavi said Iran could use the Straits of Hormuz to apply pressure on foreign powers. About two-fifths of the world's oil supplies pass through the 34-mile-wide entrance to the Gulf.
"The Straits of Hormuz are a point of control and economic pressure on the energy transfer route for those foreign powers that might want to undermine regional security," Safavi said.
He reiterated that Iran could defend itself against any invasion and added: "I advise Americans not to move toward a military strike against Iran."
On Tuesday, Safavi called for foreign forces to leave the region. The U.S. 5th Fleet is based in Bahrain.
Now, Mr. Ledeen has reasons to be optimistic about what America can and will do next; read the whole thing. Nonetheless, we may see some serious events this weekend in the Persian Gulf. (Perhaps not; Lord knows, I'd love to be wrong about this.)
Keep your eyes open.