Red rag from Iran or message to President Biden?

Does the Iranian missile strike near USS Nimitz have anything to do with the new US president?. The answer is probably yes. Opinion.

Dr. Salem AlKetbi ,

Arabian Sea, Indian Ocean, Australia
Arabian Sea, Indian Ocean, Australia

To no one’s surprise, some of the missiles fired by the Iranian mullahs’ regime’s forces during recent maneuvers landed near a merchant ship in the Indian Ocean, only 100 miles from the American aircraft carrier USS Nimitz.

The incident was deliberate and aimed at provoking a military escalation with the United States in the Gulf region, some analysts maintained.

I believe that it was, yes, a deliberate incident. However, to me, it was not intended to provoke a military escalation with the US. Several reasons justify that.

First of all: the time factor. The timing seems to have been very carefully picked to orchestrate the incident. The mullahs chose a transition period during which it would be tough for incumbent US President Donald Trump to make a decision in response to the Iranian provocation.

This is not for want of time before the formal transfer of power to President-elect Joe Biden. Rather, President Trump has become engulfed in his final days in a sea of troubles as a result of his failure to recognize the possibly questionable results of the recent presidential election, and subsequently by incessant moves by the Democrats to impeach him following the January 6 storming of the Capitol.

I believe that it was, yes, a deliberate incident. However, to me, it was not intended to provoke a military escalation with the US. Several reasons justify that.
In addition, the timing in the atmosphere of anxiety, division and passionate controversy that has haunted the American political scene in recent weeks and days has left Trump handcuffed. Indeed, mounting a military strike against Iran by presidential order would be far from unanimous.

The second point that suggests Iran’s provocation was not aimed at a military escalation: the mullahs chose this moment to put on a military show instead of carrying out their threats. The threats, recently magnified, concerned what they describe as revenge for the murder of Gen. Qassem Soleimani, commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard’s Quds Force militia.

Evidence confirms that the mullahs would rather not risk being involved in a military operation, regardless of its size and purpose. They fear it could hurt new President Biden’s determination to return to the nuclear deal Trump withdrew from in mid-2018. On the other hand, this maneuver allows the mullahs to save face in front of their supporters. They can pretend to provoke the most famous American aircraft carrier, even with meticulously calculated shows.

The third point that could be one main motive for this incident is to give the new President Biden the opportunity to knock down his predecessor. The opportunity is offered for him to accuse Trump of failing to handle the Iranian threat and endangering the security of the United States, its forces and strategic interests by escalating tension with the mullahs in Iran, not to mention the failure of the policy of maximum sanctions.

As a result, the door will be opened for the new administration to justify the abandonment of Trump’s approach to deal with the mullahs before the American public opinion. The calculated provocation allows Iran to achieve its goal without putting President Biden in a situation of complete political embarrassment in case Iranian missiles hit American aircraft carriers.

In such case, it would have been difficult for President Biden to talk about a diplomatic approach (the planned return of a nuclear deal) with a regime that would go to war with Washington.

As a fourth factor, the idea of a calculated response has become an integral part of the mullahs’ mode of action.

This has already happened in the incident, allegedly in reaction to the murder of General Soleimani, where Iranian missiles attacked an Iraqi base housing US troops. Later, it became clear that the timing of the attack, its size and the missiles used were reported to the US through intermediate channels. This helped to avoid an American counter-reaction or the outbreak of a all-out war that could spell the end of the mullahs’ regime.

Now the question is whether the conduct of the Iranian missile strike near USS Nimitz has anything to do with the new US president, Joe Biden. The answer is probably yes. In fact, the mullahs want to facilitate Biden’s mission to return to the nuclear accord by torpedoing any claims that the tough sanctions policy against them was working.

They also want to show the new president the extent of their military power. The president has inherited deep turmoil at home and abroad. He has no desire to engage in an early or deferred military confrontation with the mullahs of Iran.

In other words, the missiles send a message to President Biden in language that the mullahs believe is relevant to the new president’s staff, although playing with fire may tempt President Biden to respond to the Iranian threat sooner and more boldly.

However, this seems unlikely given Biden’s marked tendency to take a diplomatic approach and return to the nuclear deal as a mechanism for assuaging the Iranian threat. The behavior of the Iranian mullahs confirms the prevailing feeling in the region that they are extremely dangerous and malicious in their intentions.

To confront such ambitions, the best strategy cannot be one lacking rigor, firmness and a big stick. Recent and older experiences have proved that the mullahs are reckless and condescending to any strategy that favors the carrot over the stick. In fact, they misread the objectives of any effort to find a peaceful solution to the chronic unrest this wretched regime has wreaked ever since Khomeini’s 1979 revolution.

Dr. Salem AlKetbi is a UAE political analyst and former Federal National Council candidate