Unprecedented maneuvers in Strait of Hormuz

We have long been skeptical about incessant predictions from the Chicken Little crowd of an imminent US or Israeli attack on Iran. We've heard these predictions for years, and it still hasn't happened—yet none of those making the predictions ever seem to eat crow. And there has been plenty of evidence that the whole thing is a game of brinkmanship aimed at keeping Iran intimidated. But in recent weeks we have started to fear that the new circumstances in the Middle East may indeed be compelling the West towards war with Iran. Now, with two US warships headed for Libya, 25 nations led by the US are converging on the strategically vital Strait of Hormuz for naval maneuvers on an unprecedented scale. The idea seems to be to prevent Iran from closing off the strait in the event of war. Prominent partners in the 12-day exercise are the UK, France, Saudi Arabia and the UAE. (The Telegraph, Sept. 15)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu butts into the US presidential race, issuing a direct appeal to American voters to elect a president willing to draw a "red line" with Iran. In the interview with NBC's "Meet the Press," Netanyahu also invoked the past days' unrest in the Muslim world to make his case for a hard line against Iran, saying "it's the same fanaticism that you see storming your embassies today. Do you want these fanatics to have nuclear weapons?" (AP, Haaretz, Sept. 16)

The head of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, Gen. Mohammad Ali Jafari, immediately rattled the saber right back, telling a rare news conference in Tehran, that "nothing will remain" of Israel if it attacks Iran, and the country will be destroyed by the IRGC's missiles. He also threatened US military bases in the region with missile strikes, and made a veiled threat of terrorist attack: "The US has many vulnerabilities around Iran, and its bases are within the range of the Guards’ missiles. We have other capabilities as well, particularly when it comes to the support of Muslims for the Islamic republic." He added that Iran would withdraw from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty should it be targeted for military action. (Daily Times, Pakistan, Sept. 17; Tehran Times, Sept. 16)

Receiving far less play in the Western media—but doubtless receiving great attention in Washington's corridors of power—Jafari also acknowledged that members of his elite special operations unit, the Quds Force, are present in Syria and Lebanon. In the same language of plausible deniability typically used by Western leaders on the question of whether their elite forces are actually engaged in combat in foreign lands, he said: "A number of Quds Force members are present in Syria and Lebanon... We provide [these countries] with counsel and advice, and transfer experience to them. But it does not mean that we have a military presence there," he added. (AFP, Sept. 16)

Let's hope this is more brinkmanship. But everyone is playing alarmingly close to the edge this time, and events have a habit of taking on a life of their own...