Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Iran Warns Off American Carrier. What's A Feckless Leader To Do?

Fresh off its military exercises in the Persian Gulf, the Iranian army chief is warning  the US Navy to stay out of "their" waterways.

Iran will take action if a U.S. aircraft carrier which left the area because of Iranian naval exercises returns to the Gulf, the state news agency quoted army chief Ataollah Salehi as saying on Tuesday.

"Iran will not repeat its warning ... the enemy's carrier has been moved to the Sea of Oman because of our drill. I recommend and emphasize to the American carrier not to return to the Persian Gulf," Salehi told IRNA.

"I advise, recommend and warn them (the Americans) over the return of this carrier to the Persian Gulf because we are not in the habit of warning more than once," the semi-official Fars news agency quoted Salehi as saying.

Salehi did not name the aircraft carrier or give details of the action Iran might take if it returned. However, last week a spokeswoman for the U.S. 5th Fleet said the USS John C. Stennis had left the Gulf.

Gee, after all those outreached hands Barack Obama proffered to the mullahs, they still refer to us as "the enemy"? Residual hatred left over from the Bush presidency, no doubt...

So the Iranians are basically threatening to close the Strait of Hormuz to insure the Stennis does not return. Michael Rubin calls it a bad, bad idea, and points out there may actually be a mini "naval surge" heading into the Gulf:

Meanwhile, while Iran perceives weakness in the Oval Office, they should be very careful about what they attempt. After all, not far behind the Stennis is the USS Carl Vinson—last in the headlines after the disposal of Bin Laden’s corpse—which turned around in near record time. The USS Abraham Lincoln is also heading to the Fifth Fleet area of operations. While there is normally only an aircraft carrier or two in the Persian Gulf or Sea of Oman, it seems there is a mini-naval surge ongoing. If Iran wants to pick a fight, they should think twice and then think again.

Israeli intelligence website DEBKA adds and confirms:

...two more American warships, the USS Bataan and USS Makin Island, are cruising in the area. They are small Marine Corps amphibian craft carrying jets and helicopters. The big air craft carrier USS Carl Vinson, deployed in the Pacific from the third week of December, is on standby to advance to waters opposite Iran in an emergency.

USS Bataan, an amphibious assault/support vessel 

So we've got plenty of muscle in the area. More than enough to ward off the threats of a few Iranian motorboats that would get laughed out of John Kerry's yacht club. But the mullahs have made a living tweaking America's nose, from the hostage crisis of 1979 to the kidnapped hikers of 2012. Do they see another opportunity before them?

What will Obama do in the face of this threat? DEBKA, again:

It is hard to see the Obama administration caving in to Tehran's ultimate challenge to the freedom of this vital international waterway. The Stennis or some other American naval vessel must soon be sent through the Strait of Hormuz to test Iran's assumption of control.

Ah...no. Actually, it is not hard to see Barack Obama caving in to the Iranians at all. His ability to make Iran bow to his charm, goodwill, and sparkling intelligence was one of the central platforms of his 2008 campaign - an outreached hand as opposed to a clenched fist, yadda yadda yadda.  A decision by this president to use a military option here would be tantamount to admitting the failure of liberal foreign policy, as well as the necessity of engaging in a "Bush doctrine" of sorts when dealing with rouge regimes.

Obama is not ready to concede personal ideological defeat. But he has shown a willingness to force the entirety of the United States of America to concede defeat in order to protect his political pretensions (see Iraq, Afghanistan). Obama has already watered down the sanctions passed by Congress and made them flexible to his will, even as the doves in his party screamed bloody murder (mixed metaphor, I know). Why would he not withdraw the Stennis and most of his Persian Gulf fleet, so as to demonstrate to the mullahs that "we're not a threat, there is no need to be afraid of us, we are willing to accede to your demands, so we can all sit down and talk and be friends now. Right?"

That's my bet. Besides, the timing's not right. Obama's learned from the killing of Osama bin Laden that the flush of victory at war only lasts about 2-3 weeks (just ask Bush the Elder, he of the 90% approval rating after winning Gulf War I). Expect an Iranian military strike, coordinated with Israel, on or around October 15, 2012.

Just enough time to carry him to victory...while our defeat is ensured...

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