Another weekend and another round of aggressive military actions from the Iranian regime greeted the world. The mullahs engage in regular acts of defiance on a schedule as predictable as North Korea it seems.
The latest episode involves the regime’s announcement of another series of military war games by the Revolutionary Guard Corps with the first phase kicking off on Monday with the launching of a series of rockets and missiles.
“Today, various classes of smart rockets with pinpoint accuracy were successfully test-fired, which showed the power of the Islamic Republic of Iran,” Brigadier General Pakpour told reporters on Monday.
The type of rockets and missiles used were not disclosed, but the regime has been actively launching ballistic missiles of various types over the past several months, earning sharp rebukes from the international community and the U.S. in particular as violations of sanctions imposed by the United Nations Security Council.
The maneuvers are scheduled to last three days and are dubbed “Grand Prophet 11.” Pakpour said that some unspecified rockets, the IRGC’s drones, and artillery would also be used during the exercises.
The military drills will be held despite warnings from the United States and the implementation of new sanctions by Washington over a ballistic-missile test conducted by Iran on January 29.
“Iran would do well not to test the resolve of this new president [Donald Trump],” U.S. Vice President Mike Pence said earlier this month, as the new Trump administration had announced that it had put Iran “on notice” after the missile test last month.
U.S. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis has also said that Iran is “the single biggest state sponsor of terrorism in the world.”
The ramp up in military actions, followed by threats of sanctions and retaliation have set a volatile stage for the Iranian regime in which its usual repertoire of threats followed by more threats may finally fall on deaf ears of an U.S. administration appearing to be more resolute in confronting the regime rather than appeasing it.
It also follows a new Congress which seems eager to push forward new sanctions after being held off by the Obama administration the past several years.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) revealed plans Sunday to introduce legislation that would impose further economic sanctions on Iran, according to a Reuters report.
Graham, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, mentioned the plans for increased measures during a panel discussion at the 2017 Munich Security Conference.
“I think it is now time for the Congress to take Iran on directly in terms of what they’ve done outside the nuclear program,” Graham said.
Graham said he and other senators would be introducing a measure to hold Iran accountable for its actions, Reuters reported.
James Jones, a former Supreme Allied Commander in Europe and President Barack Obama’s first national security adviser, told a separate event in Munich that he remained convinced that sanctions had persuaded Iran to negotiate the 2015 landmark deal with six world powers to curb its nuclear program.
“The sanctions did work. Iran would never have come to the negotiating table without sanctions,” Jones said. “This is a new form of response that if properly utilized can change behavior and get people to do things that they otherwise wouldn’t do.”
Regime Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif, who also attended the Munich Security Conference, said Iran doesn’t “respond well” to coercion and threats.
“We don’t respond well to coercion. We don’t respond well to sanctions, but we respond very well to mutual respect. We respond very well to arrangements to reach mutually acceptable scenarios,” Zarif said on Sunday, according to an AP report.
It’s a curious statement for Zarif to make since the Iranian regime has done everything but act respectfully towards its neighbors and the rest of the international community.
It’s doubtful the government in Yemen would find Iranian regime’s supplying of Houthi rebel forces a respectful act, nor would the vast majority of Syrian civilians who have endured a savage conflict at the hands of the IRGC’s Quds Forces and Hezbollah fighters find that a respectful act as well.
But the pressure the mullahs are feeling from a new American administration has only compounded the pressure mounting from within Iran as they struggle with growing protests and environmental crises made worse by gross mismanagement.
According to the New York Times, days of protests over dust storms, power failures and government mismanagement in one of Iran’s most oil-rich cities subsided on Sunday after security forces declared all demonstrations illegal.
Residents of Ahvaz, a city with a majority Arab population near the border with Iraq, had been protesting for five days in increasingly large gatherings, shown in cellphone video clips shared on social media.
The region around Ahvaz is a center of oil production in Iran, and since economic sanctions were lifted, Iranian people had hoped for changes to renovate the worn-out water and electricity instructures and fix deepening ecological problems.
The cellphone clips show protesters calling for the resignation of the local governor. And as the number of demonstrators grew, the demands started to include a call for top officials from the capital, Tehran, to come to Ahvaz to see the problems for themselves.
Demonstrators can also be heard shouting, “Unemployment, unemployment,” another big problem in the region, and urging their countrymen to offer assistance: “Iranian compatriots, help us, help us.”
A 15-year drought, in combination with poorly planned dam building, has caused local marshes to dry up, increasing the level of dust particles in the air to record highs.
The World Health Organization said in 2015 that Ahvaz was the most polluted city in the world.
With the ruling theocracy in Iran continuing to poor the country’s resources in to the Syrian war, supporting Yemeni’s Houthis, violent militia groups in Iraq, development of Ballistic Missiles, the pressure will only mount and similar to how North Korea has handled persistent starvation, the Iranian regime will not flex its military muscles in an effort to divert attention from the misery of the Iranian people.