TEL AVIV – Less than one week before the international community is set to unlock a decade of sanctions imposed on Iran, the country’s Islamic hardliners deliberately generated a crisis with the US for pure domestic consumption with the aim of ensuring the ayatollahs’s continued grip on power.
Once the International Atomic Energy Agency announces on Friday as expected that Iran has fulfilled its obligations under the US-brokered nuclear accord, the billions of dollars in unfrozen accounts and the massive flow of oil exports will usher in historic changes to Iran’s long-isolated economy.
Iran’s hardliners are backed by the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps, the IRGC, which ultimately answers to the country’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. This nexus of power fears that the sanctions relief – and renewed ties with the West, primarily the US – will shift the center of gravity toward the Iranian internationalists, largely represented by Foreign Minister Mohammad Zarif and President Hassan Rouhani.
Khamenei’s revolution requires that the West be viewed by Iranians as the enemy; indeed, this is the very raison d’être for the Guards’ continued existence. The hardliners cannot afford to be upstaged by any progress on the economic and political fronts following next week’s sanctions relief.
The BBC last year noticed this trend and accurately reported that “the Guards appear to be pursuing a new doctrine: in order to protect the Islamic Republic at home, Iran must confront threats abroad.”
And so the Guards, knowing they will face few consequences from the Obama administration, seized the opportunity to capture ten sailors after two US Navy patrol boards were accused of crossing into the country’s territorial waters.
The Guards said in a statement that the US military personnel were set free after an investigation had determined they had entered by mistake – but not before maximizing the humiliation of the US at home and abroad.
The Chief of Staff of Iran’s Armed Forces, Major General Hassan Firouzabadi, boasted to Iranian media that Tuesday’s capture and subsequent release of the sailors “proved how vulnerable the U.S. is in front of powerful Iranian forces.”
Iran’s Tasnim news agency further quoted Firouzabadi stating, “This incident in the Persian Gulf, which probably will not be the American forces’ last mistake in the region, should be a lesson to troublemakers in the US Congress.”
On Wednesday, Tasnim released video purporting to show a US sailor apologizing for invading Iranian territory. “It was a mistake, it was our fault, and we apologize for our mistake,” an unidentified sailor told the Iranian interviewer, who then asked him if his GPS system penetrated Iran. “I believe so,” he responded.
Of course, the latest events must also be seen through the lens of the wider Shiite-Sunni divide, and the need for the Iranians to regain the narrative and upstage the Saudi axis after the Kingdom’s provocative killing earlier this month of the prominent Shiite cleric Nimr Baqir al-Nimr.
It is stunning that the Iranians believe they can get away with these provocations while they use the Obama administration as willing dupes for their internal Soviet-esque propaganda efforts.
Columnist Charles Krauthammer rightly noted:
In October, Iran test-fires a nuclear-capable ballistic missile in brazen violation of a Security Council resolution explicitly prohibiting such launches. President Obama does nothing. One month later, Iran does it again. The administration makes a few gestures at the UN. Then nothing. Then finally, on Dec. 30, the White House announces a few sanctions.
They are weak, aimed mostly at individuals and designed essentially for show. Amazingly, even that proves too much. By 10 P.M. that night, the administration caves. The White House sends out an email saying that sanctions are off — and the Iranian president orders the military to expedite the missile program.
. . . Just two weeks ago, Iran’s Revolutionary Guards conducted live-fire exercises near the Strait of Hormuz. It gave nearby US vessels exactly 23 seconds of warning. One rocket was launched 1,500 yards from the USS Harry S. Truman.
Obama’s response? None.
Aaron Klein is Breitbart’s Jerusalem bureau chief. He is a New York Times bestselling author and hosts the popular weekend talk radio program, “Aaron Klein Investigative Radio.” Follow him on Twitter @AaronKleinShow. Follow him on Facebook.