Why Iran is betting on escalation?

Ali Hajizade

Editor’s column

AHajizade

Image Source wsj.com


Last few months, the Strait of Hormuz and the surrounding waters have become an area of various provocations and geopolitical struggle. In the 1980s, this region had already witnessed “a war of tankers”, which was responded to by the US military operation called “Praying Mantis” in 1988. Apparently, Tehran is sure that this time Washington will not act similarly.

New tensions in the Arabian Gulf have started with the tanker incidents. Tankers belonging to several countries, including Saudi Arabia and UAE were damaged during the Iranian attacks. It is important to understand that the Strait of Hormuz, through which a third of the world’s liquified natural gas and almost 20 percentof the world’s oil production flows, has a crucial importance not only for the region but for the whole world.

After the tanker incidents, Iran shot down a United States military drone which, according to them, entered the country’s territory, however, the US side claims that the drone was out of the Iranian airspace at the moment.

This was followed by incidents involving British tankers. Some may consider Iran’s actions as meaningless and unconnected, however, if we look closer and take into account the mentality of the Iranian regime, the picture becomes quite different. Mullahs do not play “Russian roulette”, it is a well-developed tactic, that has quite clear objectives.

The Iranian side intentionally exacerbates the situation in the Arabian Gulf, in particular, in the Strait of Hormuz. Tehran has multiple objectives; first of all to deliver a clear message that if Iran cannot sell its oil, other Gulf countries will also have problems with the oil export. If we take into account that the Gulf countries are directly dependent on the oil export, it is easy to imagine their losses, in case of a decline in exports. Secondly, to try to intimidate the Gulf countries, in particular, UAE, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, to keep them in tension and frighten away their foreign business partners. Thirdly, to raise the stakes in their confrontation with the US, exacerbating the situation in the region. The Iranian Mullahs look like gamblers, who have gone all-in.

Of course, Tehran is working on several scenarios. If the regime feels a real threat, then Javad Zarif, a “dove of peace”, will appear on stage. As long as Tehran is sure that the US and their allies are not going to undertake any large-scale acts of force, IRGC will run the show.

The regime’s objective is to avoid large-scale military actions, whether air operation, ground operation or something else, as the regime is well aware of what the Iranian army is and its real military capability.

Sporadic air and missile attacks of the US military will immediately be used by the Iranian propaganda to justify its position and to escalate the anti-Americanism in the country.

The Iranian people, exhausted both from the regulations, established by the so-called “Islamic Republic” and economic chaos, caused by sanctions and myopic policy of the authorities, question the legitimacy of the current regime more and more. However, the people have been held hostage to fanatics and calculating Mullahs. Even many IRGC high-ranking officers do not agree with the chosen line. They understand if things get out of control, exacerbation can ruin their business. Many of IRGC high-ranking officers are involved in the smuggling of fuel, drugs, weapons, consumer goods and gain exorbitant profit on those operations. They would not be happy losing this income.

Iran is exacerbating the situation through its nuclear program. According to Javad Zarif’s letter to Federica Mogherini, Iran will cease to fulfill its commitments under JCPOA, on September 6. It may be assumed that Iran has long ceased to fulfill these obligations, while Zarif’s letter is just a message that Iran fully renews its policy of nuclear blackmail. Nuclear blackmail is a component of Iran’s escalation policy.

All this is accompanied by belligerent and provocative rhetoric by Tehran, and ridiculous threats like “turn the White House into Hussainiya”.

The Iranian regime seeks to gain a certain geopolitical advantage, and, of course, buy some time through creating “the controlled chaos”. Moreover, buy time not only on the world stage but also inside the country, where the discontent with the regime is increasing daily.

Furthermore, escalation with the US and the Gulf neighbors is a great opportunity for Iran to demonstrate to their proxies from Hezbollah and Houthis “how fearless Mullahs fight against Great Satan”.

It cannot be excluded that, after a certain time, Iran will exacerbate the situation around Babel-Mandeb Strait using its proxies.

Babel-Mandeb Strait is one of the world’s most important shipping lanes, that provides a vast amount of oil and other vital supplies export and import, including cargo, destined to and from Israel.

Of course, implementing the plan for escalation and delaying time, Tehran hopes that Donald Trump will not be re-elected and Iran will be able to reach an agreement with a new administration, which allegedly will be not as strict as the current. If a Democratic candidate wins the elections, Iran will have a chance to regain the influence of its lobby in Washington, as it was during the Obama administration.

 

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