Iran could be bluffing in the strait of Hormuz — but can U.S. risk calling it?

Simon Tisdall writes: Tehran’s vow to stop US warships crossing international waters in the strait of Hormuz, following 10 days of provocative Iranian missile tests and naval exercises, is seen in Washington as evidence that ramped-up western sanctions are finally beginning to bite.

While this conclusion may be correct, there is always the danger of a disastrous miscalculation. Iran could be merely sabre rattling, as American analysts suggest. But what if it is not?

Seen from Tehran, the most serious threat to the survival of the regime led by supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei comes from within, not without – a consideration not sufficiently understood in the west. The political establishment is riven by deep divisions, principally between economic reformers loyal to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and clerical arch-conservatives backed by the Revolutionary Guards and a wealthy, corrupt merchant class that has grown fat on the 1979 revolution.

Khamenei appears to be trying to hold the line between the two factions. What worries him more than the movements of the USS John C Stennis aircraft carrier group in the Gulf, or even US and EU oil sanctions, is the thought that crucial parliamentary elections due in March could produce a permanent rupture within the Islamic Republic. Such a split could open the way to a second Iranian revolution.

Memories of the mass demonstrations that shook Tehran and other cities in 2009 after rigged presidential elections have not faded. The Green movement’s leaders are dispersed, in jail or under house arrest. But their demands for transparent democracy, freedom of expression and an end to misrule by mullahs have not been forgotten. Millions of young Iranians have been watching the Arab spring unfold and they believe Iran’s turn will come.

Khamenei is running scared. As Yasmin Alem noted in a recent commentary, the supreme leader views the coming election as a potential “security challenge”. The minister of intelligence, Heydar Moslehi, says the polls will be the “most sensitive elections in the history of the Islamic Republic”.

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3 thoughts on “Iran could be bluffing in the strait of Hormuz — but can U.S. risk calling it?

  1. delia ruhe

    Strutting the macho in the Straits of Hormuz is a dangerous game that Obama thinks he can control. But his habit of caving to every whim of Bibi and the Lobby suggests that he’s not in control of anything where Israel is concerned. If his poll numbers are not looking as good as he would like them to be by next summer, I think that the US will find itself in yet another war against Muslims.

  2. dickerson3870

    RE: “the movements of the USS John C Stennis aircraft carrier group in the Gulf”
    MY COMMENT: It is fantastically appropriate that the U.S. call upon the USS John C Stennis to keep the Iranians in their place! I wonder if that was Obama’s idea. Or perhaps Netanyahu’s.
    FROM WIKIPEDIA: …Like most Mississippi politicians, [John C.] Stennis was a strong supporter of racial segregation. In the 1950s and 1960s he vigorously opposed the Voting Rights Act, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 as well as the Civil Rights Act of 1968 and he signed the Southern Manifesto of 1956, supporting filibuster tactics to block or delay passage in all cases.
    Earlier, as a prosecutor, he sought the conviction and execution of three share croppers whose murder confessions had been extracted by torture, including flogging.[3] The convictions were overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court in the landmark case of Brown v. Mississippi (1936) that banned the use of evidence obtained by torture. The transcript of the trial indicates Stennis was fully aware that the suspects had been tortured.
    SOURCE –

  3. Norman

    What has the comment from Wikipedia got to do with the movement in the gulf? It’s quite possible that Iran could wreck havoc on the U.S. fleet, which would cause one horrendous amount of Iranian civilian causalities, not the least of which might include the sinking of many of the ships. That has to be weighed whether the deaths of U.S. sailors are worth the price to be born out in this game of chicken? Let Israel alone fight Iran, the U.S. can’t afford it.

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