By Brian M. Downing
These attacks are almost certainly directed by Israeli, Saudi, and US intelligence services. They may also be acts of war.
"This business will get out of control."
-- The Hunt for Red October
In the last few years diplomatic pressures and economic sanctions have been imposed to convince Iran to allow international inspection of its nuclear research facilities. A number of states have also pursued a violent clandestine campaign of bombings and assassinations that have killed scores of Iranians, including nuclear scientists. These attacks are almost certainly directed by Israeli, Saudi, and US intelligence services. They may also be acts of war.
In recent weeks Iran has decried terrorism around the world (somewhat paradoxically, to be sure), put up a clumsy plot to assassinate a Saudi ambassador, boasted of its missile strength, and briefly seized the British embassy in Tehran -- an act done not by students as with the US embassy in 1979, but by toughs of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). Most recently, the IRGC went on alert, ostensibly to brace for more attacks inside the country.
These responses indicate rising ire in the Iranian government, the political ascendancy of the IRGC, and most ominously, the likelihood of sharper hostilities in the region. In the absence of candid dialogue and in the oblique language of stern diplomacy, Iran is signaling the possibility of violent responses well beyond the quotidian rocket attacks on Israel from Hamas and Hizbullah. These could include encouraging Shiite uprisings in the Gulf and attacking Israeli, Saudi, and US targets. US targets would include troops in Iraq, the Persian Gulf, and Afghanistan.
Foreign efforts to press Iran to abandon its nuclear program -- sanctions and covert operations -- have thus far been unsuccessful. They are getting out of control and are leading to violent retaliation and regional conflict. Indeed, they may be presently intended to elicit a violent response from Iran which will then be used as a pretext for stronger attacks -- perhaps devastating ones on Iran's air defenses and military bases to be followed on with strikes on nuclear sites.
These efforts only firming government and popular support for nuclear research and solidifying IRGC power in the state. Iran is moving from a theocracy with a zealous military to a military-dominated bureaucracy with a clerical body legitimizing it. And of course militaries usually prefer violent actions to diplomatic ones.
The American public is blissfully unaware of what is going on and will see a violent Iranian response as unprovoked and calling for decisive action. And any US attack on Iran will be widely judged as measured and just.
-2011 Brian M Downing Re-posted with the author's permission
Brian M. Downing is a political/military analyst and author of The Military Revolution and Political Change and The Paths of Glory: War and Social Change in America from the Great War to Vietnam.