By Paul Iddon
The Iranian vow to deploy naval units off US shores should be ignored rather than dignified.
While discussing the deployment of additional US Navy forces to the Persian Gulf some time ago a friend of mine quipped, “imagine the media hype if say the Iranian Navy decided to deploy its warships off the San Francisco bay area!” Retrospectively he had a point, which is why I found the recent vow by Iran to send naval units to form a “powerful presence” in the Gulf of Mexico to be particularly intriguing, yet not consistent with the material and logistical realities within the Iranian Navy.
This CNN report does a good job in debunking the proselytizing hype prominent in certain reactionary circles in the US that warn of the “imminent danger” this deployment will pose to the United States. Take this article from Front Page Mag which is the epitome of the said hype (and among other things opts for a CGI rendition of a warship rather than an actual photograph of an Iranian navy ship) as it inextricably ties in this current development with other instances of the Islamic Republic “aggressively building a presence in the Western Hemisphere”, examples cited are Hezbollah setting up operations in Cuba (in light of the fact that Castro endorsed the Russian Orthodox church three years ago I wouldn't be surprised to see him now following up his new found religious indulgences by welcoming in the 'Party of God') and other Iranian proxy forces collaborating with Mexican drug lords. As well as alluding to the fact Iranian missiles may be placed in Venezuela and that there may even be the potentiality of Iranian proxy forces being capable of launching a crippling EMP strike on North America. (The whole imminent 'ticking clock' danger hysteria reminds one of an episode of 24 or a Tom Clancy plot line rather than the present geopolitical realities on the ground.)
Following these pronouncements we heard of a serious allegation made by the Obama administration that the Quds Force were complicit in a plot to assassinate a Saudi envoy on US soil in collaboration with Mexican drugs gangs. Whilst this allegation has been seriously questioned with regards to the nature of the operation one finds it difficult to give the Iranian regime any benefit of the doubt when one does reconsider the regimes past complicity in the murders of Kurdish exiles in Germany and Israeli diplomats and Argentine civilians in Argentina in the early 1990's.
More reactionary circles across the American political spectrum pronounced that this alleged plot constituted the casus belli for war with Iran. One does not think it would be wise to respond with dangerous sabre rattling, but rather to treat this as a criminal investigation with the intent of prosecuting the conspirators to such an act of terrorism on US soil. Only when the full extent of the plot in question is revealed would be the right time to reach the most obvious conclusions and respond accordingly and decisively.
Also one doesn't think it wise to make a lot of noise about Iran forging alliances with other countries. In particular this perceived Caracas-Tehran axis is in general much too over hyped, as is Hugo Chavez overly demonized. On one hand he has been hailed and praised by many for his work in redistributing substantial amounts of Venezuela's oil wealth to the poor of the country. On the other hand his rabid opposition to his conspiratorial perception of American imperialism has evidently garnered him with some questionable bed fellows. Even though Venezuela has bought a substantial amount of hi-tech military hardware from Russia it doesn't exactly pose any military threat to the United States. The reason it is vilified is because under Chavez Venezuela has given US corporate interests in the region a major headache.
Furthermore one sincerely doubts we will ever be seeing anything like a Venezuelan Missile Crisis (as was implied in that article), let alone seeing one any time soon. However we will probably see Mr. Chavez forging diplomatic alliances with some questionable “opponents” of US imperialism, and continuing to adopt a policy which I will dub the 'Chavez doctrine', that being a doctrine of aligning Venezuela with other states led in most cases by autocrats and dictators that are actively pitting themselves against western (predominately American) influence, and in some cases the spread of democracy. This doctrine has seen Chavez recently opting to be a mediator between Colonel Gaddafi and the rebels (even though he personally favoured Gaddafi) as well as ingratiating himself with the present regime in Tehran.
These Iranian statements (the said vow to deploy naval deployment to the Gulf of Mexico) and (in the case of the US allegation of the conspiratorial Iranian assassination plot) actions clearly show that the Islamic regime pursues achieving the status of an international power. One which seems to crave the ability to project power far beyond its borders in a manner similar to its perception of a loathsome US superpower.
Personally I don't have any qualms with the Iranian leadership sending frigates to bob around in the North Atlantic. Even if such an operation does manifest it will more than likely be nothing more than a rather meaningless and futile gesture of power projection. I felt the same about the hysteria a few months ago with regards to Iranian warships steaming through the Suez Canal for the first time since the revolution. Even if they were to do something over the top like attempt some kind of an assault on the Israeli coastline they would most likely share a similar fate to that of the Sahand in the Iran Iraq War or of the Egyptian Ibrahim el Awal in the Suez Crisis.
Dignifying and trying to instil fear over such actions by the Iranian regime plays into their hands and is in my opinion very counterproductive. As it focuses all attention on over emphasizing the actuality of the threat that Iran poses and in turn over shadows the internal struggle of the various Iranian democrats which in turn plays into the ever more dangerous 'us' verses 'them' mentality that demonizes the majority of countries population and in turn gives the present leadership the aura of representing the country as a whole.
So to conclude, it is my firm held opinion and belief that this deployment vow should be seen as nothing more than a lame attempt by the festering regime in Tehran to divert attention away from its heinous treatment of the people it presides over as well as its consistent and persistent squandering of the countries international status to that of an untrustworthy and capricious pariah state.
Edit: Three instances of the word 'pledge' have been subsequently replaced with 'vow'.
Editor’s Note: Paul Iddon is one of the authors of Uskowi on Iran. His weekly column 'Broadened Vistas' appears here on Wednesdays.