Category Archives: Iran

Sang Froid

Posted by lex, on January 5th, 2012

How did Stennis Strike Group respond to the saber rattling of the Iranian general staff?

They didn’t:

If Iran’s warning on Tuesday to this American aircraft carrier was intended to disrupt the ship’s routine or provoke a high-seas reaction, nothing of the sort was evident on Wednesday.

Steaming in international waters over the horizon from the Iranian fleet, the John C. Stennis spent the day and the early hours of the night launching and recovering aircraft for its latest mission — supporting ground troops in Afghanistan. All visible indications were that the carrier’s crew was keeping to its scheduled work, regardless of any political or diplomatic fallout from Iran’s warnings.

“It is business as usual here,” said Rear Adm. Craig S. Faller, commander of the carrier strike group, as he watched a large-screen radar image showing the nearby sea and sky cluttered with commercial traffic.

The screen also showed Navy jets flying back and forth in a narrow air corridor to Afghanistan, known as “the boulevard.”

The day’s sorties, not the words of Iran, commanded attention here throughout the afternoon and evening. Returning pilots discussed low-elevation passes to suppress Taliban fighters near an Italian patrol in Farah Province and to help British troops under fire in Helmand Province. The subject of Iran barely came up in the briefings and meetings…

As they planned the next day’s missions even as the last aircraft returned to the ship, Admiral Faller and his officers and crew had no comment about the general’s threat.

They referred to what had been said already in Washington: that United States ships sailed lawfully in international waters, and that they would not tolerate any effort by Iran or any other nation to close the Strait of Hormuz.

As for that, they said, everything was normal in the strait that day. “We get all the news,” Admiral Faller said. “We get CNN. We get Fox. We have access to the Internet, and we are voracious consumers of information. We saw those statements. But we also watch the sea.”

All of it.

Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Equipment) 2nd Class Ashawn Robertson walks catapult four checking for any foreign object damage prior to flight operations.

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Casus Belli

Posted By lex, on December 28th, 2011

Iran threatens to create one:

A senior Iranian official on Tuesday delivered a sharp threat in response to economic sanctions being readied by the United States, saying his country would retaliate against any crackdown by blocking all oil shipments through the Strait of Hormuz, a vital artery for transporting about one-fifth of the world’s oil supply.

The declaration by Iran’s first vice president, Mohammad-Reza Rahimi, came as President Obama prepares to sign legislation that, if fully implemented, could substantially reduce Iran’s oil revenue in a bid to deter it from pursuing a nuclear weapons program…

Apparently fearful of the expanded sanctions’ possible impact on the already-stressed economy of Iran, the world’s third-largest energy exporter, Mr. Rahimi said, “If they impose sanctions on Iran’s oil exports, then even one drop of oil cannot flow from the Strait of Hormuz,” according to Iran’s official news agency. Iran just began a 10-day naval exercise in the area.

Oh, if only we had a Strategic Petroleum Reserve against such an eventuality.


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Loose Talk

Posted By lex, on December 29th, 2011

Having threatened to shoot itself in the foot by closing the Strait of Hormuz, and having heard the US 5th Fleet reply that “it’s just not going to happen,” cooler heads are prevailing, for now, in the Islamic Republic:

Iranian officials insist that the U.A.E. pipeline and others that are being constructed in the region will not lessen the strategic importance of the Hormuz Strait. But they have raised the issue repeatedly, which analysts say is a sign that they are nervous about it.

And Iran — which has enjoyed record oil profits over the past five years but is faced with a dwindling number of oil customers — relies on the Hormuz Strait as the departure gate for its biggest client: China.

“We would be committing economical suicide by closing off the Hormuz Strait,” said an Iranian Oil Ministry official who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject. “Oil money is our only income, so we would be spectacularly shooting ourselves in the foot by doing that.”

Ahmad Bakhshayesh Ardestani, a political scientist running for parliament from the camp of hard-line clerics and commanders opposing Ahmadinejad, said it is “good politics” for Iran to respond to U.S. threats with threats of its own.

“But our threat will not be realized,” Ardestani said. “We are just responding to the U.S., nothing more.”

Domestic politics, in other words. Nothing to see here, move along.

Well, perhaps. But the rational actor theory has its critics.

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Time and Space

Posted by lex, on December 14th, 2011

Dennis Ross, who was until recently President Obama’s principal adviser on the Middle East, says that we still have time and space to prevent the nuclearization of Iran, which he admits would represent an existential threat to our foremost ally in the region, as well as a significant security threat ** to the United States:

The Obama administration is committed to preventing Iran from obtaining nuclear arms as a “vital national security interest” but believes there is still time to change Iranian behavior through economic and political pressure, a former top adviser on the Middle East said Tuesday.

Dennis Ross, who stepped down last month as special assistant to President Obama, portrayed Iran as behind schedule on its nuclear program and battered by some of the worst strain seen in the country in three decades. Yet, more pressure is needed to prevent its leaders from acquiring a nuclear capability that would destabilize the region and heighten the risk of war, he said.

“This is not about containment; it’s about prevention,” Ross said in his first public address since leaving the White House. “I believe we still have time and space to achieve that objective.”

Ross appears to hope that the internal challenges Iran faces will somehow bounce in our favor, taking the nuclear issue off the table before kinetic actions are required. But in the case of Iran, hope is not a strategy, and what is required is neither time nor space, but the will to act vigorously in our own self-interest.

In an unselfconsciously ironic addendum, he notes that Israel would do well to negotiate for peace with its neighbors now, rather than awaiting events:

“There are many in Israel who look at the region and say, ‘Now is not the time,’ ” Ross told a gathering at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, a think tank to which he returned after quitting his government job. “If you sit back and wait for things to clarify, you will be acted upon. Your options shrink; they don’t expand.”

Good advice. I hope his former boss is listening.

** 03-19-21 Original link gone; substitute found – Ed.

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Posted By lex, on February 22nd, 2012

A headline from the NYT: Nuclear Inspectors Say Their Mission to Iran Has Failed

A visit by international nuclear inspectors to Iran ended in failure Tuesday. Tehran not only blocked access to a site the inspectors believe could have been used for tests on how to produce a nuclear weapon, they reported, but it also refused to agree to a process for resolving questions about other “possible military dimensions” to its nuclear program.

I feel like I’ve seen this movie before.

Perhaps in the sequel, they avoid the “nation building” bit, and focus instead on the “nation breaking” part.

You know: Finish on a high note.

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Strange Bedfellows

Posted By lex, on March 10th, 2011

It’s said that politics makes strange bedfellows. If that’s the case, then geo-politics must make stranger partners still: When they were in power in Afghanistan, the Taliban received nothing but inveterate malice from the regime in Tehran.

All changed:

NATO forces in Afghanistan have seized 48 Iranian-made rockets intended to aid the Taliban’s spring battle campaign, the most powerful illicit weapons ever intercepted en route from the neighboring state, officials said Wednesday.

The shipment is seen as a serious escalation in Iran’s state support of the Taliban insurgency, according to NATO officials and described in detail by an international intelligence official.

It’s also an escalation in the proxy war Western officials say Iran is waging against U.S. and other Western forces in Afghanistan, as Washington continues to lobby for tougher international sanctions against Tehran to dissuade it from its alleged goal of building nuclear weapons…

The rockets, which were shown to an Associated Press reporter, were machined without Iranian markings or any serial numbers, but the official says their technical details match other Iranian models…

Iran, which was a staunch opponent of the Taliban when it ruled Afghanistan before the U.S.-led invasion triggered by the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, has denied allegations that it is supporting militants in the war torn country.

Oh, well then. Probably our mistake.

“The enemy of my enemy is my friend.” At least the Iranians understand that.

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Sanctions that Bite

Posted by lex, on September 25, 2009

A second, heretofore hidden Iranian nuclear plant, a defiant, nutjob Iranian president and a case of breathtaking naïveté:

“So I think Iran is on notice that when we meet with them on October 1st,” Obama said, “they are going to have to come clean” and make a choice on whether to give up “the acquisition of nuclear weapons” or “continue down a path that is going to lead to confrontation.” He added: “The international community, I think, has spoken. It is now up to Iran to respond.”

Mr. President, they already did.

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On Pragmatism

Posted by lex, on June 17, 2009

One of President Obama’s most compelling themes while running for office was the notion of ending Washington’s “politics as usual” processes, which most people took for ugly partisanship propped up by rigid ideological orthodoxies. He promised to govern as a pragmatic, eschewing ideology in favor of analysis. A generous reading of such an analytical approach is that it is experimental, favoring what appears to work in complex, adaptive systems. A less generous view would be that it enables policies of just making it up as you go. The chief advantage to ideology is that in a crisis it gives the ideologue at least a default position: Free markets are generally superior to government driven systems, freedom generally is superior to its alternative.

This is not to say that the president is not in favor of freedom generally, but in the case of the post-election unrest brewing in Iran, he seems unwilling to be in favor of it in particular. Robert Kagan notes this conundrum:

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“Live free or die”

Posted by lex, on December 10, 2007

Iranian students in Tehran are channeling the New Hampshire state motto:

Students defied a clampdown on protests in Iran yesterday by tearing down the gates of Tehran university.

They chanted slogans against President Ahmadinejad and carried placards saying “Live free or die”, “No war, no fascism” and “Women must decide their fate, not the state.”

They wrecked the iron-barred gates and threw stones at police, according to Iranian state radio, which said the protest ended peacefully.

Tehran University is the largest and one of the oldest universities in Iran.

Political globalism at work.


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Iran – then and now

Posted by lex, on January 3, 2007

While researching something else, I stumbled across this site. Thought provoking.
I don’t know anything about these guys – and I know that life under the shah was not all sweetness and light – but it seems to me that they have a kind of point.

Oh, and in case that grainy image opposite the female naval officers a bit more than half way down is indistinct – that’s a woman being stoned. For adultery, probably.

Male “criminals” are merely hung.

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