There are several predictable things about the Iranian
regime. For one, it will always hold marches where protestors will chant “Death
to America.” For another, it will support terrorist activities against its
neighbors and its perceived enemies in far-flung countries.
It will also have its leaders make slightly irrational and
not-so-veiled threats against any number of countries, militaries, economies,
landmarks – or most recently – navigable waterways.
The latest episode was Iranian president Hassan Rouhani’s
threat this week that the Iranian regime would disrupt other countries’ oil
shipments through the Persian Gulf if the U.S. moved forward with efforts to stop
Iranian oil exports as part of its renewed economic sanctions.
“America should know that we are selling our oil and will
continue to sell our oil and they are not able to stop our oil exports,” Rouhani
said in a televised speech during a trip to the northern Iranian city of
“If one day they want to prevent the export of Iran’s oil, then no oil will be exported from the Persian Gulf,” Rouhani, the supposedly moderate President of the Iranian regime said.
The fact that Rouhani made nearly identical threats in last
July should come as no surprise as the regime is long on rhetoric, but short on
action on this scale.
His comments were backed up by similar bellicose statements
from the Revolutionary Guard Corps, whose commander was quoted as saying Tehran
would block oil shipments through the Strait of Hormuz if the U.S. went ahead
and banned its oil sales.
The concept of a blockade of the Gulf, while appealing to
the more irrational members of the mullahs running Iran, would only help topple
their rule since any effort to force a blockade would almost assuredly have the
opposite effect and unite countries around the world in forcing open the
shipping lanes no matter the cost.
The threat comes less than 24 hours after U.S.
officials told the Wall Street Journal that an aircraft carrier
group led by the USS John C. Stennis is set to arrive in the Persian
Gulf “within days” — which will bring a close what’s
been described as the longest period in two decades that a carrier group was
absent from the region. Specifically, the unnamed officials identified the
purpose as to “exhibit a show of force against Iran”.
deployment, though previously scheduled, was announced after the U.S.
condemned Iran’s test firing a medium-range nuclear capable ballistic
missile on Sunday.
It would also reinforce the perception that Tehran was never
really serious about moderation when it entered into the nuclear deal and
instead only wants to continue disrupting the world stage.
The threat of a blockade is about as serious as the claims
by the mullahs that no dissension exists within the Islamic state, despite
mounting protests throughout the country.
Even the carefully pushed narrative by the Iran lobby that
Europe would come to Iran’s rescue with an alternative financing mechanism
designed to help pay for Iranian oil sales in alternative forms of payment got
a dose of cold water and had to be refuted by its foreign minister.
Earlier, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif denied a
Reuters report that said a European mechanism to set up an account to trade
with Iran and beat the newly re-imposed U.S. sanctions may not cover oil sales,
the Iranian foreign ministry website reported.
“Based on the information we have, it’s not so. Because if
Iran’s oil money is not deposited into the account, it’s not clear that there
would be any funds for trade, because oil is a major part of Iran’s exports,”
Zarif said, according to the website.
“This appears to be propaganda aimed at discouraging
people,” Zarif added.
While the Iranian regime had pinned hopes that the effort
led by France and Germany would yield dividends, the ill-advised efforts by the
regime to assassinate Iranian dissidents in France and Denmark led to renewed
calls to punish the regime.
Talk about bad timing. The mullahs seem to excel at it;
continually undercutting the messaging by the Iran lobby with idiotic actions.
This contradiction in messages is borne out by a new
study by the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies
(IISS) which revealed a dramatic increase in the regime’s defense spending; far
beyond what would be perceived as necessary for its defense.
One key finding was that the 2018–19 defense budget bill is
much higher than what even the most ardent critics within the Iranian
establishment had sought. These hardliners wanted five percent of the country’s
total budgetary outlay for defense, which was already achieved in 2016.
Iran’s military expenditure for 2018–19 is estimated at
$19.6 billion out of $260 billion total outlay, which makes defense spending at
7.5 per cent of Iran’s total budget.
Most interesting though was the finding by IISS that the
latest Iranian defense budget also had a whopping 84 percent rise in
allocations for local forces pointing to rising internal dissent and the need
to shift more resources to putting down protests and tracking down dissidents.
So while Rouhani may be blustering about closing the Gulf,
the real threat to Iran and its mullahs is not coming from the Straits of
Hormuz, but the streets of Tehran.