Opinion

The Iranian regime on a warning

May 06, 2019

John Bolton, President Donald Trump’s National Security Adviser, has announced that the dispatch of an aircraft carrier strike group to the Gulf is designed to send “a clear and unmistakable message” to Iran. Yet on the face of it, this is nonsense. It is by no means unusual to have US warships in these waters.

Yet Washington appears to be acting on intelligence that the ayatollahs in Tehran are planning some new international outrage. Bolton did not go into specifics but warned that the latest military deployment demonstrated “to the Iranian regime that any attack on United States interests or on those of our allies will be met with unrelenting force."

It seems possible that Tehran’s privileged elite, the Praetorian Revolutionary Guard may be planning some response to Trump’s designation of it as a terrorist organization. That such an assault would merely prove the justice of the charge that this body is essentially terrorist would be completely lost on the Iranian regime. Like all fanatics bent upon causing destruction and mayhem, whenever they are challenged, their answer is to mount some horrific act of terror, in a bloody attempt to prove their power. So it has been with the killers of Daesh (the self-proclaimed IS) and so it has proved with the fanatical Revolutionary Guard.

Unfortunately, Bolton’s promise that any new Iranian crime would be met with a counterattack of “unrelenting force” is likely to encourage rather than cower these bigots. They would welcome American retaliation, especially if it left photographic evidence of damage and a sufficient number of “martyrs” whose bodies would be paraded through the streets surrounded by baying crowds of rabid regime supporters.

Moreover, as Iran’s economy sinks into ever greater trouble, not simply because of the reintroduced US sanctions but through the Iranian government’s deep corruption and astonishing administrative incompetence, the ayatollahs need something to divert the attention of their increasingly angry citizens. Stirring up outside conflict is the stock-in-trade of illegitimate regimes throughout history. Thus prodding a sharp stick at the United States looks like a win-win for the ayatollahs. The harder the repercussions by the American military, the more Tehran will like it.

It must be hoped that Bolton, who shares with his president a notable line in bombast, is doing more than saber-rattling. If the Washington intelligence establishment has firm evidence of a planned Iranian attack, either on US interests or those of its regional allies, then the most effective reaction would be to frustrate that assault before it can strike home.

If Trump has any idea that the ayatollahs can somehow be dealt some fatal blow, he is plain wrong. The Americans should have learned by now that attempting to force through regime-change does not work. The only people who can get rid of the regime in Tehran are the Iranians themselves. They have suffered 40 years of bungling rule by a self-serving elite which has wrecked their country and robbed it of its place in the assembly of civilized nations. The ayatollahs and their Revolutionary Guard, who are guilty of wholesale violent interference in the Arab world, will not be chased from power by US cruise missiles. Rather they will be ousted by an Iranian population fed up with being exploited, pauperized and shunned by the outside world because of the crimes of their government.


May 06, 2019
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