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For its part, the United States regards the latest Iranian warning regarding its carrier battle group as a sign of desperation, caused by a wobbling economy and a weak currency brought on by previous sanctions. As expected, the US Navy said it will carry on as usual. Commander Bill Speaks stated in the Office of the Secretary of Defense that US naval deployment in the Gulf “will continue as it has for decades.”
The question that now has to be asked, however, is how desperate the Iranian regime really is and just how serious are its threats? With their possible demise staring them in the face, would the mullahs risk such reckless actions as a military attack on US warships or an attempted closure of the Strait of Hormuz that would provoke a heavy American military response?
With regard to the American sanctions, the mullahs are undoubtedly facing the greatest danger to their survival since the 1980s Iran-Iraq war – and fully realize it. The seriousness of their threats attests to this. So with economic strangulation a distinct possibility if no action is taken, the Iranian regime will probably choose to embark on a military adventure.
Such a grim course of action would not only serve to divert the Iranian people’s troubles away from the country’s economic woes, it would also fit in nicely with Shi’ite theology that wars and bloodshed have to occur before the twelfth imam reappears at the end of times. The belief in the ‘Hidden Imam’ is held so deeply among some Iranians that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad even spoke about him from the podium at the United Nations.
In a loose comparison, Japan was also a country that at one time faced Iran’s current dilemma. After America embargoed oil shipments to the Asian power in July 1941, it was left with a choice of either military action or decline. As America soon, and painfully, found out, Japan preferred to fight rather than change its militaristic ways. And like Japan, Iran is also a country with a long and proud history with a sense of greatness and mission that comes from once being a great empire. It will most likely also rather fight than face inevitable decline.
Asia Times writer David Goldman, whose columns appear under the literary pseudonym Spengler, offers another reason why Iran will probably fight instead of capitulate. According to Goldman, if Iran is going to re-establish itself as a Middle Eastern power, it has to go to war now because the country’s fertility rate has dropped so low, 1.7 children per female, it won’t have the men in 20 years to wage war. Due to this “demographic catastrophe,” Goldman maintains it is now or never for Iran.
But an Iranian military assault may not involve the closing of the Strait of Hormuz or an attack on an American warship, although Iran does have a few modern, Russian-built submarines possessing anti-ship missiles. Iran could launch missiles at Saudi Arabia’s major oil facilities, located just across the Persian Gulf, on which America depends. Oil wells in neighboring Azerbaijan, which also exports to the West, would also be targeted for destruction. Missile development, aided by North Korea, is the one area of military technology, in which Iran has spent a substantial amount of money. And with the last American troops leaving Iraq, there is also nothing to stop that country from becoming a target for Iranian military aggression.
But whatever the Iranians decide, there is one thing that is certain in this high stakes game of Persian Gulf brinkmanship: when the next American aircraft carrier attempts to return to Gulf waters through the Strait of Hormuz, the world will be holding its breath.
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