By Daan de Wit
Translated by Ben Kearney
News reports on Iran are now following each other in rapid succession, and together they form a new step towards a military conflict. Both parties - Iran on the one side and Israel plus the U.S. on the other - are still engaged in a face-off, and every day they find themselves a little bit closer to each other than the day before. Iran shows no interest in budging a single inch, and continues to assert its role in the region. As for the other party, the continued existence of a sovereign Iran would at present not seem to be an option. What follows is an analysis of these fast-moving developments.
The current list of events paving the way towards a war with Iran is longer than the list of points referred to earlier in this DeepJournal series, which includes the murders of scientists as well as Iranian missile tests. Israel for instance has been preparing, together with the U.S., for the largest-scale missile defense exercise in Israeli history. 'The drill, which is unprecedented in its size, will include the establishment of US command posts in Israel and IDF command posts at EUCOM headquarters in Germany – with the ultimate goal of establishing joint task forces in the event of a large-scale conflict in the Middle East.' The exercise was postponed, possibly to avoid the potential of a military conflict breaking out. In postponing the exercise, some experts saw an American signal to the Israelis, a warning that Washington is calling the shots and that there is no discussion of any attacks. But if the U.S. wanted to send real signals, it would quit supporting Israel financially, put a halt to widespread arms shipments and cease to accept any new settlements in the occupied territories.
Parallel to the recent developments playing out: the U.S. Navy remains ever-present and at-the-ready off the Iranian coast; the Pentagon is seeking to develop even more powerful conventional bombs with which to strike Iran; American, British and French warships are plying the Strait of Hormuz; the U.S. Navy is testing new drones that can scan the Strait for suspicious - Iranian - ships, submarines and mines, and the delivery of weapons systems to friendly countries in the region - previously examined in this DeepJournal series - continues unabated, including the provision of military training by a new American elite commando unit. The headline from DEBKAfile, the voice of the Israeli military and intelligence establishment: 'US sets May as tentative date for clash with Iran. Floating SEALs base for Gulf', and then goes on to write: 'The target date for deploying the commando platform in the Persian Gulf in four or five months indicates Washington is preparing for military clashes to blow up with Iran in the late spring or early summer.'
And then there are the sanctions. The U.S. has initiated sanctions targeting Iran's central bank, and the EU is banning oil imports from Iran; 60 percent of Iran's income is derived from the sale of oil. This from the Russian Foreign Minister, Lavrov: 'It has nothing to do with a desire to strengthen the nuclear non-proliferation. It's aimed at stifling the Iranian economy and the population in an apparent hope to provoke discontent.' Financial expert Jim Rickards: 'President Obama sanctioned the central bank [...]. The Iranian currency, the rial, dropped 30% in a single day. Hyperinflation has broken out in Iran. This is financial warfare.' Kenneth Schortgen Jr: 'The longer that hyperinflation rages within their economy, the greater the possibility for internal unrest from the citizens of the Islamic state.' The Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution foresees problems, voiced here by Kenneth Pollack: 'The problem is that these sanctions are potentially so damaging that they could backfire, creating at least three sets of consequences that would leave the United States in a worse position, whatever the impact on Iran.' Pollack cites negative consequences for the U.S. economy, diminishing support for sanctions, and the prospect of a war with Iran.
'The Obama administration and its allies have thrown smart sanctions overboard [...]', writes the LA Times. The paper calls it 'a risky strategy that could backfire [...] maybe the move will just stir anger.' Though this could certainly be the case, who is to say that this is not precisely the intention in the first place?