No one should doubt the potential seriousness of Iran’s increased military defiance in the face of growing international pressure over its nuclear program.
We have seen the testing of two missile systems, the threat to block the passage of shipping through the Strait of Hormuz and the warning from an Iranian general that U.S. aircraft carriers should not re-enter the Gulf.
The Iranian government is in financial and political trouble. The economy is collapsing and dissent, both within the leadership and among ordinary Iranians, is growing. Faced with this, the regime is ratcheting up tension militarily so that it can exploit the one clear option that it has left, nationalism. Whatever the populace may think about their government, there can be little doubt that most Iranians would rally around the flag if their country were attacked or seemed to be in imminent danger of attack.
Any attempt to close the Straits of Hormuz would be provocative in the extreme. However, it must be asked if this is anything but a bluff. To close the channel would block its own oil exports as well as those of the other countries around the Gulf. Nor should one crucial fact be forgotten: The bulk of oil exports from Gulf ports goes to Asia, with one of the most important customers for most Gulf oil states being China.
If Iran genuinely wants stability and security in the region, it should press the reset button, simply by permitting a full inspection of its nuclear program.
Unfortunately Teheran so far refuses, either because its nuclear plans are indeed anything but civil, or possibly because such a move might appear as weakness, a caving in to the hated U.S.
Thus, with every further saber rattle from both Washington and Teheran, this most obvious course seems ever more unlikely.
Arab News, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia