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Since Iran’s naval forces were reorganized in 2007 and responsibility for inside the Persian Gulf handed over to the IRGC Navy, the Rev. Guards have been “adding and upgrading its inventory of high-speed vessels with missile and torpedo capabilities,” writes Navy Commander Joshua C. Himes.
In addition to a new domestic production line for Bladerunner go-fast boats, and a dozen Bazvar 2 stealth flying boats, Iran is now seeking to increase the top speed of existing go-fast boats “from 55 knots to 80-85 knots, along with increasing balance and maneuverability designed to enable cruise-missile and torpedo capabilities,” Cmdr. Himes writes.
A swarming attack that sank a major U.S. warship could have catastrophic consequences, undermining confidence in U.S. naval power and emboldening Iran to attempt a selective blockade of the Strait of Hormuz.
Consequence: oil prices increase dramatically. U.S. loses credibility. Iran wins.
Scenario 3: Iran is bluffing and does nothing
The most likely scenario, based on past experience, is that Iran is hoping that incendiary statements will scare Western countries to walk back sanctions against Iranian oil and against the Central Bank, or at least to not enforce them.
President Obama added fuel to such hopes in his signing statement on New Year’s Eve, when he indicated he didn’t intend to impose the sanctions on Bank Markazi because they infringed on the power of the executive to conduct foreign policy.
The Wall Street Journal has been touting just such a scenario in its reporting and online video analysis. In one clip, Dow Jones Reporter Benoit Faucon, discounted the U.S. and European moves. “In some way, it is a bluff, because nothing practical has happened yet,” he said. “It’s a formidable chess game between Obama and Khamenei.”
In a separate clip, the Journal’s Daniel Strumpf said he believed Iran would back down. Noting that nothing would happen in Europe until the Jan. 31 EU foreign ministers meeting in Brussels, he expected the Iranians to back off to preserve the markets, since “the demand is not there for $4 gas.”
If the U.S. and the EU go through with sanctions on the Central Bank, oil prices will bump up and down following the trajectory of Iranian threats. After a few weeks prices will settle back to acceptable levels (around $100/barrel) once it becomes clear that Iran is not about to initiate hostilities.
As the months go by, however, an increasingly cash-strapped Iranian regime could face renewed domestic unrest, especially as Iranians prepare to go to the polls in March to elect a new parliament.
Consequence: Oil prices remain relatively stable; Iran loses.
Nervous Nellies who swallow the bluster from Tehran get hysterical whenever the U.S. has two aircraft carriers inside the Persian Gulf. For some reason, they believe the U.S. Navy would signal its intent to launch an imminent strike on Iran by making such an overt move.
On the contrary, I have always believed that the real opening to a military strike on Iran would be just the opposite: pulling our big warships out of the Persian Gulf into the relative safety of the Arabian Sea or the Indian Ocean.
That is precisely what the U.S. Navy did this week.
Is the U.S. about to attack Iran? If I knew the answer to that question, I couldn’t tell you.
But if I were a U.S. military planner, I would be analyzing events from Tehran’s eyes, as I tried to do in the three scenarios above. And out of an abundance of caution, I would be pulling my assets out of harm’s way – not because I had an intention to attack Iran, but because I believed the Iranian regime might calculate they had to strike first, or die.
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