More empty threats from Iran (updated)
Iran threatened to close the Straits of Hormuz if sanctions against its currency and central bank were approved.
That threat was shown to be bluster as the economic sanctions are now really beginning to have some effect. But now, the Iranians are threatening the US Navy if a carrier strike group sails into the Persian Gulf.
Iran threatened Tuesday to take action if the U.S. Navy moves an aircraft carrier into the Gulf, Tehran's most aggressive statement yet after weeks of saber-rattling as new U.S. and EU financial sanctions take a toll on its economy.
The prospect of sanctions targeting the oil sector in a serious way for the first time has hit Iran's rial currency, which reached a record low Tuesday and has fallen by 40 percent against the dollar in the past month.
Queues formed at banks and some currency exchange offices shut their doors as Iranians scrambled to buy dollars to protect their savings from the currency's fall.
Army chief Ataollah Salehi said the United States had moved an aircraft carrier out of the Gulf because of Iran's naval exercises, and Iran would take action if the ship returned.
"Iran will not repeat its warning ... the enemy's carrier has been moved to the Sea of Oman because of our drill. I recommend and emphasize to the American carrier not to return to the Persian Gulf," army chief Salehi said.
"I advise, recommend and warn them over the return of this carrier to the Persian Gulf because we are not in the habit of warning more than once."
The aircraft carrier USS John C Stennis leads a U.S. Navy task force in the region. It is now in the Arabian Sea providing air support for the war in Afghanistan, said Lieutenant Rebecca Rebarich, spokeswoman for the U.S. 5th Fleet.
The carrier left the Gulf on December 27 on a "preplanned, routine transit" through the Straight of Hormuz, she said.
It is known that Iran has anti-ship missiles, although it is not thought that they could sink a carrier. Defensive measures from screening vessels would intercept all but the most sophisticated missiles and there is little doubt that we could trace the origin of any attack and obliterate it with cruise missiles or combat sorties from the carrier itself.
If Iran wants a war against the US Navy, I'm sure our boys would welcome it. But it is doubtful that they are that stupid and the threats against our carrier are just more empty posturing from Iran.
Neil Snyder adds:
The mullahs in Iran are begging for an attitude adjustment.
Iran threatened to take action against the U.S. Navy if carriers return to the Persian Gulf:
"Army chief Ataollah Salehi said the United States had moved an aircraft carrier out of the Gulf because of Iran's naval exercises, and Iran would take action if the ship returned.
"'Iran will not repeat its warning...the enemy's carrier has been moved to the Sea of Oman because of our drill. I recommend and emphasize to the American carrier not to return to the Persian Gulf,' he said.
"'I advise, recommend and warn them over the return of this carrier to the Persian Gulf because we are not in the habit of warning more than once.'"
The U.S. response was swift:
"'These are regularly scheduled movements and in accordance with our long-standing commitments to the security and stability of the region and in support of ongoing operations,' Commander Bill Speaks said in an emailed response to Reuters questions.
"'The U.S. Navy operates under international maritime conventions to maintain a constant state of high vigilance in order to ensure the continued, safe flow of maritime traffic in waterways critical to global commerce,' he said."
If President Obama understood the art of diplomacy and the close connection between diplomacy and war, he would order the U.S. carrier fleet back to the Persian Gulf posthaste. The mullahs in Iran are begging for an attitude adjustment, and the time is rapidly approaching when we will have to give them one whether we want to or not. The question at this point is who will initiate the action? Ordering our carrier fleet back to the Persian Gulf would send Iran a crystal clear message: it's time put up or shut up.
Neil Snyder is a chaired professor emeritus at the University of Virginia. His blog, SnyderTalk.com, is posted daily. His latest book is titled If You Voted for Obama in 2008 to Prove You're Not a Racist, You Need to Vote for Someone Else in 2012 to Prove You're Not an Idiot.
Thomas Lifson adds:
I am less enthusiastic about a military engagment than Neil. I worry the mullahs want a small scale fight to rally the nation behind them. Iran does not have the military force to take us on, but could conceivably retaliate with terror operations when the Navy returns to the Gulf. The mullahs may also believe that a suicide attack on a carrier group could inflict damage, or have some other way of claiming victory to their people.
That said, if they impede any traffic, including Navy vessels, go after them and teach them a lesson.