Teddy Roosevelt once described his approach to foreign affairs as speaking softly while carrying a big stick. Over the past few days, Donald Trump apparently came close to using that stick, but he wound up speaking softly. It seems to me that he made a wise choice.
Iran is being crippled financially by our sanctions. Its proxy fighters in places like Yemen and Syria have been taking beatings from our allies. Iran’s power and influence are not on the rise.
So why would Iran attack shipping and shoot down a U.S. drone? Desperation?
I don’t think so. The Iranians may be testing the limits to see what they can get away with. Or they may be in such a cash bind that they’ll try anything to raise the price of oil. But oil shipments through the Persian Gulf are no longer a direct concern to Trump because his policies have resulted in America becoming a net oil exporter. These days, it’s China, Vietnam, and Japan who are reliant on oil from the Gulf.
A pinprick attack in retaliation for shooting down a reconnaissance drone wouldn’t have caused enough damage to the mullahs and the Revolutionary Guards to curb their ambitions, so speaking softly (but firmly) probably was wise.
One of these days, the Iranians will do something too costly to be disregarded. Then it will be time for the stick.
The Times of Israel has an article up about recent intelligence operations directed against Iran.
Iranian infrastructure and strategic networks have come under attack in the last few days by a computer virus similar to Stuxnet but “more violent, more advanced and more sophisticated,” and Israeli officials are refusing to discuss what role, if any, they may have had in the operation, an Israeli TV report said Wednesday.
The report came hours after Israel said its Mossad intelligence agency had thwarted an Iranian murder plot in Denmark, and two days after Iran acknowledged that President Hassan Rouhani’s mobile phone had been bugged. It also follows a string of Israeli intelligence coups against Iran, including the extraction from Tehran in January by the Mossad of the contents of a vast archive documenting Iran’s nuclear weapons program, and the detailing by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the UN in September of other alleged Iranian nuclear and missile assets inside Iran, in Syria and in Lebanon.
And Reuters reports that the Iranians have sorta/kinda fessed up on the computer virus attack.
Gholamreza Jalali, head of Iran’s civil defense agency, said on Sunday that Iran had recently neutralized a new version of Stuxnet.
“Recently we discovered a new generation of Stuxnet which consisted of several parts … and was trying to enter our systems,” Jalali was quoted as saying by the semi-official ISNA news agency at a news conference marking Iran’s civil defense day. He did not give further details.
Sounds like some folks at the Mossad have been earning their pay.
So Little Rocket Man may be giving up his nukes. We’ll see how that works out.
If it does, it will be an interesting precedent for other countries with weak economies that can’t carry the load of paying simultaneously for weapons development and economic development. Iran has a bigger economy than North Korea, but the mullahs have stunted their civil economies growth. Pakistan has lots of nukes and rampant poverty. The collapse of the Soviet Union was driven in large part by that country’s inability to pay for guns and butter. The Russians changed leaders, got a modestly improved economy, and kept their nukes. Will Kim preserve his hold on power by giving up his nukes for economic development? Will anyone else?
McClean’s has a post up that looks at the current uprisings in Iran through the eyes of Iranian immigrants in Canada.
As for what the future holds, this is where Sharooz and Mohyeddin part ways.
Mohyeddin is filled with optimism, convinced that the darkness that descended upon Iran in 1979 will soon be lifted, and that the Iranian people will not allow the regime to resort to the barbarism and genocide Bashar Assad has unleashed upon the Syrian people for their impudence in demanding democracy. “The regime would never dare do what Assad did,” she said. “They just wouldn’t dare.”
Sharooz said he wants to believe that, but he just can’t.
“This is not going to have a happy ending. I can’t imagine that. This is a regime that is not going to give up power without a fight. The moment that they feel their power is threatened they will unleash any violence that they can to maintain that hold on power. The ending to this story, whether it’s two years from now or five years from now, it’s going to be bloody.”
Read the whole thing.
For now, I don’t see any reason to doubt Sharooz’s view. Unless the uprisings fizzle soon, I believe it is likely that the mullahs will inflict on their people what they have done in Syria. I hope things do not proceed as I foresee.
… I remember SAVAK. While the Shah’s regime was in many respects more open that the Islamic Republic, his secret police forces was among the most effective in the world and greatly hated by the Iranian people. If what is going on in Iran now becomes a successful revolution, I hope the new regime will not see the need for yet another secret police organization to maintain control.
One point of view concerning President Trumps decision to obey the law and move the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem (Congress mandated the move before the turn of the century) is summed up by the headline on a post at
Breitbart Unmasked Bunny Billy Boy Brett Unread: Trump Throws Gasoline on Middle East Fire by Recognizing Jerusalem as Israeli Capital. There’s not much original thought in the BU piece by “Staff Writer”—just a bunch of cut-and-paste from the usual suspects such as CNN and the NYT.
A more insightful view is outlined in a piece over at Bloomberg: Trump Teaches Palestinians About the New Middle East. The article begins by noting that the Sunni Arabs are more concerned about Iran than the West Bank. Indeed, there are signs that the Sunnis are ready to consider a three-way alliance with Israel and the U.S. to roll back Iranian expansion.
And so, Israel’s full participation in the Trump-Sunni project comes at a price. Netanyahu has a vision of how to solve the Palestinian issue. It includes a unified Jerusalem legally belonging to Israel, as well as continued West Bank settlement and, if there ever is a deal, a demilitarized Palestinian entity. The alternative — no deal — is okay with him, too.
Seen this way, Trump’s move today is not a Hanukkah present at all. It is a down payment. How long will it take to build that embassy? Three years? Four? No rush. Time is on Israel’s side.
Read the whole thing.
Scott Johnson has posted an email from Omri Ceren at PowerLine with some insightful analysis of the Iranian Nuke Deal. The title is a good summation: Inspector Clouseau Was Unavailable (4).