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More Analysis of Iranian Aggression Against US Navy: It was About Oil Prices

I linked to some commentary and analysis from the military blog community yesterday on the Iranians’ aggression against our U.S. Navy over the weekend. Today I came across this post over at NRO THE TANK by Steve Schippert, who states that the show of aggression was more about trying to get the oil price raised in order to boost the Iranian economy, which depends solely on their oil revenue.

A lot of understandable unease – and significant misreading of events – today regarding the Iranian speedboat harassment and threats to U.S. Navy warships entering the Gulf through the Strait of Hormuz. Most of the initial public take has centered around the threat transmitted in English, “I am coming at you, and you will explode in a few minutes.” Quite understandable.

But from there, most public reactions have failed to identify proper context for the Iranian actions this weekend.

First, in a quote attributed to an unnamed official in the latest New York Times article on the incident, is the possibility of an Iranian probe, testing reactions and observable procedures for future reference. “Whether they’re just testing us to learn about our procedures, or actually trying to initiate an incident, we don’t know,” the Times quoted him as saying.

Second, and more importantly from a strategic view rather than tactical, is the Iranian leveraging of crisis and instability in the manipulation of sky-high crude oil prices, the only boost that exists in the Iranian economy.

Oil is flirting with $100 per barrel. Its average price in December dropped to just over $88 per barrel from over $92 average for the month of November. Incidents like this weekend’s serve to remind the global oil market of how fragile the supply route is, thus maintaining premium price for Iran’s only significant export and only significant source of revenue.

There almost certainly was never any true suicide ramming threat on the open Strait. But perceptions can be quite profitable.

More initial analysis here, and deeper analysis of the real nature of the Iranian Oil Weapon here, for those interested.

One additional thought:

While a revolutionary Shi’a Iranian regime poses the greatest threat to regional Arab oil exporters, such as Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, its overtly threatening actions to US Naval vessels and statements threatening to block the Strait of Hormuz if attacked drives up alarm and oil prices for them as well. And this they enjoy with lucrative pleasure. For now.

For it’s a dangerous game of speculation they play of navigating the ‘gulf’ between international market perceptions of risk and a much lower level of threat actually perceived by the region’s predominantly Sunni Arab OPEC members.

And unless something drastically changes, this mutually beneficial market run will have finally fully funded the successful nuclear armament of the Iranian protagonists. And with that the ‘gulf’ between risk perception and threat reality will have narrowed substantially, and the game will be over. At that point, who played whom?

And it is so often said that it is American greed that is responsible for so much ill… Greed is universal. And the game being played is more dangerous than most apply thought to. Or so it seems from here today.

The Threats Watch analyses are pretty good, so I encourage you to check them out and go back there often for analysis in military matters.

UPDATE at 01:24 EST on 09 JAN 2008: Jules Crittenden has more good analysis:

In more ways than one. Iran has been testing U.S. defenses since 1979, and in almost every case has found them wanting. The exception, to some extent, has been Iraq, where Iranian agents have been held and Iranian goals for the present frustrated. Despite the existence of a Shiite-dominated government, Iraq has agreed in principle to a long-term strategic arrangement with the United States to include military bases. Short-term Shiites are dancing to an American tune, with al-Sistani long a voice of moderation, al-Sadr playing nice, al-Hakim talking up the Sunnis, and some elements of Shiite tribal leadership engaged in their own awakening.

None of that, long term, means any more than the notion that Iran has given up on nukes, which is to say, sure, if you think so. Iran is biding its time. Iran remains the elephant in the room of U.S. foreign policy, currently hidden under the throwrug of misrepresented NIE findings and surge-bought security. Imagine the possibilities under an Obama or a Huckabee presidency.

So why mess with success? It’s a minor incident, maybe just intended to remind the Americans re pending Iraq talks they still can be a nuisance. Maybe just to remind themselves exactly how complacent and short-sighted Americans really are. Maybe for domestic purposes. Maybe the Revolutionary Guard was just bored.

Or maybe … uh, let’s see … what else is going on this week that would make Iran want to call attention to itself, when all anyone in America cares about is the election and that’s going so well?

Oh yeah, that:

Gulf Daily News: Iran to overshadow Arab-Israeli Conflict

Ha’aretz: Hamas says Bush visit is about Iran, not Mideast peace

VOA: Bush says he will discuss Iran as well as Mideast peace

Sounds like Iran wants to be involved in the conversation.

Kevin Sullivan notes some people are already calling this a Persian Gulf of Tonkin. Hey, great idea, but don’t we need to exchange fire with the ghost boats first?

Gateway’s got your Iranian boat art, links.

UPDATE: via CBS/AP, RevGuard denies aggro approach, Mullah Foreign Ministry calls it “normal.” MFM has a point. Aggressive brinksmanship, absurd denials are entirely normal for Iran.

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January 9, 2008 , 12:48AM - Posted by | Iran, The Long War, US Navy

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