A high level Iranian navy officer warned the U.S. not to send the U.S.S. Stennis back to the Straits of Hormuz through which it passed last week. The threat remained unspecified, but the implications were clear. If you return, you do so at your peril. The U.S. government responded defiantly that it would continue patrolling the body of water to ensure the free flow of international commerce:
The U.S. Navy maintains a “constant state of high vigilance” to “ensure the continued, safe flow of maritime traffic in waterways critical to global commerce,” George Little, a spokesman for the Pentagon, said…
These are regularly scheduled movements in accordance with our longstanding commitments to the security and stability of the region…
Which is of course a lie since the reason the U.S. navy is there is to intimidate the crap out of the Iranians and enforce an embargo on Iranian oil and other trade. It’s not yet officially come to that, but the Navy can and will place Iran under siege at the first opportunity, I’m certain. Someone will have to explain to me how having almost the entire Fifth Fleet right up Iran’s tuchus ensures the security and stability of the region. If the Chinese sent their new aircraft carrier to patrol off San Francisco would that ensure the security and stability of the region?
The Iranians test-fired a new medium-range missile during recent war games exercises, while the U.S. said it wouldn’t allow Iran to block the Straits. Who knows what the outcome of such a confrontation would be. The U.S. has might, the Iranians are fighting on their home ground. I believe that in any such military confrontation the Iranians could cause us pain.
Everyone knows which way this is going. The U.S. and Israel put the screws to the Iranians, trying to get them to cry “Uncle.” When they don’t, things get worse. Eventually, there will be a war, although how it will start is undetermined.
U.S. officials and hawkish analysts are trumpeting the savage blows caused by the new oil embargo against the Iranian economy. We hear about devaluations of currency and the like. The implication is that the Iranians can’t go on like this forever. That they will finally see the light and see it our way. This is utter nonsense. It’s simply wish-fulfillment and it is terribly naïve and destructive to base foreign policy on illusions as we are in this case.
In a separate development, the U.S. military announced it would hold major war game exercises in Israel during which thousands of U.S. troops would be deployed there. The Jerusalem Post described the size of the operation as “unprecedented.” While I’m not an expert on specific military exercises of this fashion, I don’t believe I’ve ever heard of such a large contingent of our troops being based in Israel for such a length of time. This is clearly a warning to Iran not to attack Israel. It also highlights more than almost anything could the symbiotic relationship between our two countries. It isn’t clear whether Israel is our protectorate or whether Israel is actually the tail wagging our dog. But the fact that U.S. troops are stationed now in Israel offers that country the relationship we’ve had with Germany and South Korea for decades.
The difference is that those two countries were always sensitive to the highly flammable nature of relations between the U.S. and its enemies. They strove not to escalate tensions and force the U.S. to clean up the mess they made. Israel is an entirely different matter. Israel will not curb its appetite or perceived interests in order to protect the U.S. from such hostilities. If Israel wants to go to war it will. If it can use the death of U.S. soldiers to manipulate U.S. involvement in such hostilities, it will do that as well. If Israel attacks Iran and the latter retaliates and in doing so kills U.S. troops stationed on Israeli soil, does that become a causus belli? You bet it does in the eyes of national security hawks like Obama.
U.S. troops should not be in Israel. It does not need our troops to defend it. Iran will not attack Israel unless the latter attacks it first. Placing our troops there is yet another escalation on the road to certain war.
Further, the worse this situation becomes the less pressure there will be to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which is a good part of Bibi’s political calculation here. While the Israeli PM may half-believe the nonsense he’s peddling about Iran as an existential threat. He far more likely considers ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as an existential threat to the settler-nationalist dream of controlling all of Eretz Yisrael. His highest priority is not stopping Iran from getting a bomb, but maintaining Israeli hegemony over its territorial patrimony (as he defines it).
On a separate note, I wanted to promote a new book by Trita Parsi, president of the National Iranian American Council and a friend of this blog. Trita is one of the most important voices for moderation and pragmatism in U.S.-Iran relations. His book will be published later this month. You can preorder now and a small portion of your payment will benefit Tikun Olam.