I have been posting recently about the covert build-up of American and allied war ships in the Persian Gulf for the purpose of military exercises organised by the U.S.-led 66-member Proliferation Security Initiative. The stated objective of these exercises is to practice maneuvers to stop ships bound for Iran that might contain nuclear materials. The unstated objective is to intimidate the Iranian regime although the Americans are saying that they want Iran to take notice of their fire power.
“From Iranian news reports we know the exercise got the attention of Iran,” Robert Joseph, the undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, said Friday.
Well, how could the Iranians fail to pay attention to a hostile foreign armada off their coastline? Needless to say the Iranian regime criticised the exercises.
Iran called the two-day maneuvers “adventurist,” but the Foreign Ministry said the Islamic Republic’s response would be “rational and wise.”
“We are watching their movements very carefully,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini said in Tehran, adding that the exercises would not improve security in the gulf, through which about 20 percent of the world’s oil transits.
The Iranians have also said that they are unconcerned as they have the ships under close observation.
“US warships move regularly in the Persian Gulf and in the Sea of Oman, and we have them under surveillance,” said the navy’s commander Sajad Kouchaki, quoted by the Iranian press on Sunday.
“The presence of two US warships shows the aggressive and dominating character of the Americans,” he added.
“If they want to threaten the Islamic republic of Iran we are capable of keeping them under control. The Iranian navy does not believe in such a threat and has the enemy completely under control,” he said.
Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini told reporters that “Iran does not believe that these maneuvers constitute a threat”.
Despite their nonchalance, the Iranians have responded to this provocation with some exercises of their own. This was a fairly predictable move and demonstrates that the regime is as defiant as ever, and while Iran’s statements of being unconcerned with the war games in the Gulf may be a bluff, its determination to protect itself is not.
TEHRAN, Iran: Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards test-fired dozen of missiles, including the long-range Shahab-3, during the first hours of new military maneuvers, Iranian state-run television said Thursday.
The report said several kinds of short-range missiles were also fired in a central desert area of Iran during the maneuvers, which came two days after U.S.-led warships finished an exercise in the Gulf that Tehran described as “adventurist.”
“We want to show our deterrent and defensive power to trans-regional enemies, and we hope they will understand the message of the maneuvers,” said the head of the Revolutionary Guards, Gen. Yahya Rahim Safavi, in an apparent reference to the US and other western powers.
The general said the 10-day maneuvers, named “Great Prophet,” would take place in the Gulf, the Sea of Oman and several provinces of the country. He did not specify how many troops were involved.
This was the sort of escalation I was concerned about when I wrote this post. Now we will have to see what America (under the guise of the ‘international community’) will do about this latest development. If the Bush administration continues to escalate the situation, it could develop into a crisis very quickly. We already know that Bush and his government are in desperate trouble at home and about to lose an election, a fact that the Iranians are also well aware of.
America has also been threatening Syria again too, accusing the Assad regime of trying to topple the Lebanese government. This at a time when Blair is trying to build bridges with the Syrians in order to do something to try and rectify the terrible mess he and Bush have created in the Middle East. It doesn’t seem to be an initiative the Bush administration or Israel approve of. I think it would be naive to think all these events are unrelated.