Royal Navy Incident: Iran's Plan to Drag the US and the UK
(Published in RealClearPolitics, March 25, 2007)
The capture of British Navy servicemen by Iranian forces is not simply an incident over sea sovereignty in the Persian Gulf. It is a calculated move on behalf of TeheranÂs Jihadi chess players to provoke a 'projected' counter move by London and its American allies. It is all happening in a regional context, carefully engineered by the Mullahs strategic planners. Here is how:
The Iranian regimeÂs master plan is to wait out the remainder of Tony BlairÂs mandate (few more months) and the remaining 'real time' of President Bush (till about the end of 2007). For the thinking process in Tehran, based on their Western consultants, believe that Washington and London have reached the end of the rope and will only have till 2008 to do something major to destabilize Ahmedinijad regime. As explained by a notorious propagandist on al Jazeera today the move is precisely to respond to the Anglo-American attempt to 'stir trouble' inside Iran. Anis Naccash, a Lebanese intellectual supporter of the Ayatollahs regime, appearing from Tehran few hours ago on the Qatari-based satellite and 'explained' that the 'US and the UK must understand that Iran is as much at war with these two powers in as much as they support the rise of movements and security instability inside Iran.' He added that Khamenei is clear on the regimeÂs decision to strike: 'we will be at war with you on all levels: secret, diplomatic, military and other.' Pro-Iranian propagandists in the region, via media and online rushed to warn that this movement is part of IranÂs counter-strike against any attempt to destabilize the regime. Two major tracks emerge from these statements, the Iranian military maneuvers and the capture of British Navy personnel.
1) IranÂs domestic front is putting pressure on the Ahmedinijad regime.
From internal reporting, dissidents and anti-Ahmedinijad forces from various social sectors are practically in slow motion eruption against the authorities. Students, women, workers and political activists have been demonstrating and sometimes clashing with the regimeÂs security apparatus. Western media didnÂt report proportionally on these events over the past few weeks. In addition, ethnic minority areas have been witnessing several incidents, including violence against the 'Revolutionary Guards,' including in the Arab and Baluch areas. And last but not least, the defection of a major intelligence-military figure early this month to the West was, according to internal sources, a 'massive loss' to the regime and a possible first one in a series.
2) The regime 'need' an external clash to crush the domestic challenge.
As in many comparable cases worldwide, when an authoritarian regime is faced with severe internal opposition it attempts to deflect the crisis onto the outside world. Hence, TeheranÂs all out campaign against the US and its allies in Iraq, Lebanon and the region is in fact a repositioning of IranÂs shield against the expected rising opposition inside the country. Hence the Khomeinist Mullahs plan seem to be projected as follow:
a. Engage in the diplomatic realm, to project a realist approach worldwide, but refrain from offering real results
b. Continue, along with the Syrian regime, in supporting the 'Jihadi' Terror operations (including sectarian ones) inside Iraq
c. Widen the propaganda campaign against the US and its allies via a number of PR companies within the West, to portray Iran as 'a victim' of an 'upcoming war provoked by the US.'
d. Engage in skirmishes in the Gulf (and possibly in other spots) with US and British elements claiming these action as 'defensive,' while planned thoroughly ahead of time.
3) The regime plan is to drag its opponents into a trap
TeheranÂs master planners intend to drag the 'Coalition' into steps in engagement, at the timing of and in the field of control of IranÂs apparatus. Multiple options and scenarios are projected.
a. British military counter measure takes place, supported by the US. IranÂs regime believe that only 'limited' action by the allies is possible, according to their analysis of the domestic constraints inside the two powerful democracies.
b. Tehran moves to a second wave of activities, at its own pace, hoping to draw a higher level of classical counter strikes by US and UK forces. The dosing by IranÂs leadership is expected to stretch the game in time, until the departure of Blair and of the Bush Administration by its political opponents inside the countryÂs institutions and public debate.
In a short conclusion the 'War room' in Tehran has engaged itself in an alley of tactical moves it feels it can control. But the Iranian regime, with all its 'political chess' expertise, may find itself in a precarious and risky situation. For while it feels that it can control the tactical battlefield in the region and fuel the propaganda pressure inside the West with its Petro-dollars, it may not be able to contain the internal forces in Iran, because of which it has decided to go on offense.
The Ahmedinijad regime wishes to crumble the international consensus to avoid the financial sanctions: that is true. But as important, if not more, it wants to be able to crush the revolt before it pounds the doors to the Mullahs palaces.
Professor Walid Phares is the author of Future Jihad. He is a Visiting Fellow with the European Foundation for Democracy in Brussels and a Senior Fellow with the Walid PharesFoundation for the Defense of Democracies in Washington.