Iranian Chief of Staff Gen. Seyed Hassan Firouzabadi has said that Tehran has plans for closing the Strait of Hormuz – where more than a third of the world's seaborne oil exports pass. He added that these plans include other military designs for various situations.
Beginning on July 2, Iran has conducted three days of military exercises aimed at highlighting its strength in the face of increasing western pressure to halt its nuclear program. The Iranian Revolutionary Guard said that the maneuvers would demonstrate Iran’s ability to launch a "crushing" response to any potential foreign attacks.
To reinforce that point, the commander of Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) Aerospace Force declared that the IRGC has prepared comprehensive contingency plans to strike 35 US military bases in the region “within minutes” of an American military strike on his country.
In a recent twist, Iran's spy chief has accused German and French intelligence agencies of involvement in the killings of its nuclear scientists. Iran has previously accused Israel, the US, and Britain of the slayings in order to hold up its nuclear program. Apparently, this finger-pointing is designed to signify Iranian opposition to any nuclear deal with the EU.
Nevertheless, there has been a quiet buildup of US military forces in the Persian Gulf.
According to the New York Times, the US Navy “has doubled the number of minesweepers assigned to the region to eight vessels,” while the Air Force has, since late spring, deployed “stealthy F-22 and older F-15C warplanes” at US bases in the region. These warplanes are in addition to “combat jets already in the region and the carrier strike groups that are on constant tours of the area.”
It has also been reported that the USS Ponce, an amphibious transport and docking ship that has been converted into an “Afloat Forward Staging Base (AFSB),” has entered the Persian Gulf. This ship supports a helicopter landing deck and could be used as a floating staging area for attacks on Iran.
Although, according to the Times, |America's official message to Iran is “Don’t even think about retaliating by either closing the Strait of Hormuz or harassing commercial shipping in the Gulf,” the unofficial intent is ‘Go ahead, make my day...’
Unfortunately, the breakdown in negotiations with Iran over their quest for nuclear weapons leaves only a military option on the table.
At the same time, with the American public in no mood for another war and the Obama administration’s reluctance to initiate one just months before the November elections, voters are unlikely to approve of a US preemptive strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities.
On the other hand, should Iran initiate such an attack, the American public may view it as an incident equivalent to 9/11 or Pearl Harbor. An Iranian attack on an American military vessel will serve as justification for a retaliatory move by the US military with the full support of the American public.
But retaliation may not be confined to the vicinity of the Iranian attack. The US military must counter the IRGC’s widespread threat. The US will have to retaliate by attacking Iran’s navy, military installations, missile silos and airfields. The US has no choice but to target Iran’s ability to retaliate against its bases. The US must scrap Iran’s designs for closing down the Strait of Hormuz as well.
However, the IRGC’s threat raises an important question: why would Iran initiate a confrontation leading to its own destruction?
The answer is a product of Middle Eastern Islamic culture. The Iranian regime is suffering from macho syndrome.
This syndrome clouds their rational reasoning; it prevents the Mullahs from ending their quest for nuclear weapons even in the face of severe sanctions and possible military action.
The Mullah’s bold rhetoric must have convinced some Iranian military officers that they can defeat America. The recurring Iranian threats and frequent boasting of their military might have persuaded some hot-headed Iranian officers that US President Barack Obama will never commit to an all-out war out of fear for Iranian retaliation.
It will not take much for one trigger-happy Iranian to light the match in that combustible, oil-filled theatre.
One little Iranian match — that’s all it would take to spark a raging fire.