Thursday, February 17, 2011

17-Feb-11: Iranian warships, their impact, and Washington

We described "another thing to keep us awake at night" five nights ago. We're sorry to report that our sleep has not improved. The ongoing commentary of Commander J. E. Dyer, one of the few people tracking these extremely disturbing developments, continues to put things in an accurate-sounding perspective even as the United States' designated intelligence experts (see today's "US clueless about Egypt?" in Ynet) worry the daylights out of us with their fuzziness and worse.

Here's an extract, dealing with those Iranian warships that appear to be about to deploy not that far from the coast of Israel:
Iranian Warships Having an Outsize Impact   J. E. Dyer 02.16.2011 - 4:32 PM    The Wall Street Journal reports that investors pulled back Wednesday following the news that the Iranian warship flotilla was transiting the Suez Canal into the Mediterranean. (For those keeping score, the transit means that my original thinking on this task force – that Egypt’s interim government might reject its proposed movement through the canal – was wrong.) Apparently, the shekel took a brief dive with currency traders as well. Gold and crude have risen in the wake of the warship news; the dollar has fallen.Avigdor Lieberman announced that the Iranian task force is headed to Syria. Assuming this bears out, the Assad regime will get to have the best of both worlds: a brand-new American ambassador — dispatched in January with vows of “engagement” — and a historic visit from the warships of revolutionanary Iran. As Israeli authorities point out, moreover, Iran stated earlier that the naval task force would spend up to a year in the Mediterranean. Its base of operations is likely to be Syria, but triumphal port visits to Beirut are undoubtedly on Tehran’s to-do list.The ships themselves are hardly impressive: one frigate with old anti-ship missiles and one barely armed replenishment ship. From that perspective, the reactions of global markets might seem excessive. These ships can’t fight a war. But the reactions are actually quite rational. The big shift here is in political perceptions of power. The important facts are that revolutionary, terror-sponsoring Iran — under U.S., EU, and UN sanctions — feels free to conduct this deployment, and Syria feels free to cooperate in it. Egypt’s interim rulers apparently saw no reason to block the Suez transit, in spite of the Egyptians’ very recent concern over Iranian-backed terrorists and insurgents operating on their territory. Saudi Arabia, for its part, considered it prudent to host the Iranian warships last week — in spite of the Saudis’ own conviction that Iran has been aiding rebel groups that threaten Saudi territory... Complacent assumptions about inertia in the status quo will not be borne out. Iran’s proximate strategic objective is consolidating the rule of Hezbollah in Lebanon. Former prime minister Saad Hariri declared his opposition to the Hezbollah-backed government in a speech on Monday; Hassan Nasrallah is promising that Hezbollah fighters will occupy Galilee; Ehud Barak warned on Wednesday that Israel might have to enter Lebanon again to counter Hezbollah. With the battle lines being drawn, Iran’s posture is hardening: the Islamic revolutionary regime is “all in.”
Commander Dyer's analysis, especially today, is always worth the effort.

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