Despite the alleged “good faith” negotiations taking place between Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and Secretary of State John Kerry, the world’s foremost state sponsor of terror is now testing the United States’ mettle. Iranian warships initially sent on their first trip to the Atlantic Ocean in January will now travel close to U.S. maritime borders. The move was revealed Saturday by a senior Iranian naval commander.
“Iran’s military fleet is approaching the United States’ maritime borders, and this move has a message,” said Adm. Afshin Rezayee Haddad of Iran’s Northern Navy Fleet, according to Iran’s Fars news agency. Fars further noted that Iran had warned the Obama administration they would initiate the deployment “in the next few years” back in September of 2012. At the time, Iran’s Navy Commander R.-Adm. Habibollah Sayyari noted that the gesture would be aimed at countering the U.S. Navy’s presence in Iranian waters. The U.S. Navy’s 5th fleet is based in Bahrain, across the Persian Gulf from Iran.
The Islamic Republic News Agency (INRA) reported that Haddad said ships have already entered the Atlantic Ocean in waters near South Africa, after beginning their voyage from the southern Iranian port city of Bandar Abbas last month. The fleet consists of two ships, a helicopter carrier and a destroyer carrying an approximate total of 30 navy academy cadets in training as well as their regular crews. Their mission will last three months.
Earlier on the same day in a speech marking the 35th anniversary of the 1979 Islamic Revolution, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei lashed out at the U.S. He contended the United States would overthrow the Iranian regime if it were capable of doing so, and that Washington had a “controlling and meddlesome” attitude towards his nation. “American officials publicly say they do not seek regime change in Iran. That’s a lie. They wouldn’t hesitate a moment if they could do it,” he was quoted as saying by Fars.
Khamenei said nothing about the current negotiations, but explained that when dealing with the nation’s “enemies” Iran should be prepared to change tactics, even as it resists compromise on any of its primary principles. He also warned his nation to solve their own economic problems. “The solution to our economic problems is not looking out and having the sanctions lifted,” he said. “My advice to our officials, as ever, is to rely on infinite indigenous potentials.”
Khamenei has nothing to worry about on the sanction front. The Obama administration has apparently convinced themselves they were little more than a tangential element in bringing Iran to the bargaining table regarding its nuclear ambitions. The the Islamic Republic has already been given the first $500 million of $4.2 billion in assets that had been frozen. “The first tranche of $500 million was deposited in a Swiss bank account, and everything was done in accordance with the agreement,” announced Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi on February 1. According to a U.S. official, subsequent payments will be “evenly distributed” over the next 180 days.
In a rare display of common sense, Congress voiced extreme displeasure in the “breakthrough” deal when it was announced by the Obama administration. As late as last Tuesday some members were still angered by the administration’s accusation that those seeking to maintain sanctions were tantamount to war-mongers. Sen. Timothy Kaine (D-VA) said that sanction supporters “are not pro-war and those that oppose it are not soft on Iran or anti-Israel. We all want exactly the same thing…we all will prefer if we can get to that diplomatically,” Mr. Kaine said.
Still others remained skeptical. “I am convinced that we should only relieve pressure on Iran in return for verifiable concessions that will fundamentally dismantle Iran’s nuclear program,” declared Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ). Two days later Menendez upped the ante, complaining that the negotiators were letting Tehran keep too much of its nuclear infrastructure intact. He is the lead sponsor of a bill that would impose new sanctions, but only after giving the negotiations a specific period of time to succeed. No doubt the reality that President Obama during his State of the Union address threatened to veto any sanctions bill, along with the fact that Menendez was denied an opportunity to bring his bill to the floor by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), played a part in his calculations.
However, the bill is languishing. Due, undoubtedly, to pressure and to avoid the Obama administration’s warmongering smears, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) has stopped pushing for the support of the bill, despite it having 59 cosponsors from both sides of the aisle. “We agree with the Chairman that stopping the Iranian nuclear program should rest on bipartisan support and that there should not be a vote at this time on the measure,” they announced.
The move, as explained by Breitbart’s Joel B. Pollak, was transparently political. He noted the nation’s foremost pro-Israeli lobbying group “has often abandoned winnable political fights to protect Democrats from the consequences of their dwindling support for Israel.” One day after Democrats and AIPAC caved, Iran announced it would be cruising warships off America’s coasts.
Regardless, the Obama administration remains committed to appeasement masquerading as diplomacy. Thus it mattered little that Menendez’s bill had a “hard floor” allowing for a full year of negotiations, including the six months of the “interim deal” plus a six month grace period (following a full decade of fruitless negotiations). Nor was anyone overly concerned that Russia negotiated a backdoor, $1.5 billion-a-month oil-for-goods deal in January, or that a group of 116 of France’s top businessmen visited Iran on a trade mission, as recently as last week. Both moves threaten to completely scuttle the next round of negotiations scheduled to begin Feb. 18 in Vienna, but the best the Obama administration can come up with is that such deals are “unhelpful” or of “serious concern.”
One is left to to wonder whether there is any serious concern regarding another provocation by Iran. On Friday, Iran’s state TV network aired a video titled “The Nightmare of Vultures,” simulating attacks on Tel Aviv, Haifa, Ben Gurion Airport and the Dimona nuclear reactor. The U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln, an American air craft carrier, as well as American aircraft and American military targets in the Persian Gulf, are also targeted for destruction, all in a hypothetical retaliation for an American or Israeli attack on Iran. The film opens with Khameni giving a speech in 2011 to graduates of the Imam Ali (a.s.) Military Academy. “Anybody who thinks of attacking the Islamic Republic of Iran should be prepared to receive strong slaps and iron fists from the Armed Forces,” he says. “And America, its regional puppets and its guard dog – the Zionist regime – should know that the response of the Iranian nation to any kind of aggression, attacks or even threats will be a response that will make them collapse from within.”
So what kind of deal are Iran and the P5+1 likely to reach? One might be tempted to look at the “deal” the Obama administration reached with Syrian strongman Bashar Assad, regarding the removal of chemical weapons. Despite an agreement that called for a December 31, 2013 deadline for removing all such materials from Syria, only 4 percent of so-called priority one chemicals have been taken out of the country. Even Kerry was forced to admit the deal is a bust, and that “new approaches” were needed.
Negotiations with Syria and Iran might best be described as a feedback loop. Syria has watched Iran successfully stall for time for more than ten years thanks to weak international sanctions, which have now been watered down to the point of meaninglessness. Such spinelessness undoubtedly emboldened Assad, who initially ignored Obama’s “red line,” even as he slow walks chemical removal, while receiving additional arms from Russia. Tehran sees that fiasco unfolding, and decided that an interim deal — one that both sides have now agreed could be extended an additional six months if “good faith” bargaining continues — is their best bet. The deal not only provides additional time for stalling, but pays the regime $4.2 billion to do so. Meanwhile, Syria watches such toothless dithering while it plots its next move, which will not be lost on Iran, and so on and so on.
“If Iran’s leaders do not seize this opportunity, then I will be the first to call for more sanctions, and stand ready to exercise all options to make sure Iran does not build a nuclear weapon,” Obama said during his State of the Union speech.
Obama also said this in 2012: “I have, at this point, not ordered military engagement in the situation…We have been very clear to the Assad regime, but also to other players on the ground, that a red line for us is we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized. That would change my calculus. That would change my equation. …”
The Iranian warships will be here soon. There is nothing the Obama administration has done that would cause the Mullahs to change their calculus and change course. Not when American weakness abounds and the Iranians sense they’re on the march.
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