U.S. headed for showdown with Iran? This commentator has another theory

On Wednesday, Iran’s navy chief said that the Islamic Republic could close the Strait of Hormuz, a shipping channel vital to transporting one third of the world’s crude oil, adding that doing so would be “very easy” for his country’s forces. Including Mohamed Reza Rahimi’s threat on Tuesday to close the Strait if the West imposes new sanctions against the country’s oil sector, and Thursday’s statement by the deputy commander of Iran’s revolutionary Guard that the U.S. is in “no position to give orders,” there have been three examples of Iranian saber rattling within a week.

Most oil analysts agree that, in the words of one, “shutting down the Strait is the last bullet Iran has” short of attaining nuclear weapons and that “therefore we have to express some doubt that they would do this” at this juncture. With oil prices actually declining slightly mid-week despite this news, the smart money is saying Iran won’t make good on its threat.

Supposing then that Iran’s threat to close the Strait is idle, why would they be making it?

Many assume that Iran’s latest challenge is simply intended to dissuade Obama from signing ratcheted-up sanctions against Iran’s oil sector or to bully the EU out of its planned boycott of Iranian oil. Perhaps.

Unless, that is, Iran’s threat to close the Strait reflects a more patient strategy. The Islamic Republic’s overriding goal is to attain nuclear capability. Is it possible that the Iranians could be calculating that backing down from an empty threat to close the Strait will enhance Obama in the eyes of the U.S. electorate? 

If President Obama calls Iran’s bluff he gets to look strong for the moment and his chances of re-election are enhanced.

“The extremists [in the region] view Obama as weak,” according to Iraqi politician Mithal al-Alusi, a Sunni Muslim who was elected to Iraq’s Parliament in 2005 on a platform that advocated free markets, free speech, rule of law, and normalized relations between Iraq and Israel. Alusi, who has long warned of the Iranian nuclear threat and Iranian influence in Iraq’s government, says that Iranian leaders follow the U.S. election process closely – and they have their preferences.

To understand what they want in a U.S. leader, Alusi says one must “remember how they reacted to Carter, and then to Reagan.”

During Jimmy Carter’s presidency, the Iranians held 52 American hostages for 444 days, abused and paraded them blindfolded in a spectacle designed to humiliate the U.S.  They freed them the day of Reagan’s inauguration.

In threatening to close the Strait, then, the Islamic Republic’s leaders could be engaged in a sleight of hand. If their goal is to attain nuclear capability so as to dominate the region, continue to export terrorism, destroy Israel, and establish a global caliphate, Iran’s leaders do not want an American president who will stop them.

Perhaps fearing the election of a Republican U.S. president, the Iranians are trying to create a pretext of imminent threat to oil transport via the Strait from which to back off in response to strong statements from the U.S., such as Wednesday’s remarks by representatives of the U.S. Navy and the Pentagon that any blockage of the Strait “will not be tolerated.” 

If the Iranians back off, it will strengthen Obama’s image at home in advance of the next election.

My prediction is Iran won’t do jack in the short-term, just continue to threaten and then back down, making Obama look stronger than he is probably prepared to be in actuality. They want him re-elected, and they are setting him up for victory.

On the brink of attaining nuclear capability, Iran’s leaders view the next four years as pivotal.

So must we.






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