The capture took place in December 2011, and last May the regime released images of what it said was a reproduction of the drone and said that a test flight was imminent. Aviation industry analysts, however, noted that the so-called reproduction showed signs of being nothing more than a mock-up. This and larger patterns of Iranian military exaggerations cast serious doubt on the claims of a test flight. But the fact remains that the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps and various hardline elements of the Iranian government are keen to present themselves as ready for military confrontation.
In another example of this tendency, Speaker of the Iranian Parliament Ali Larijani boasted on Monday that Iran is currently considered to have one of the strongest missile arsenals in the Middle East. As reported by Iran’s Tasnim News Agency, Larijani’s comments even credited that missile arsenal for preventing “the enemies” of Iran from taking military action against it, in spite of their foreign policy positions and demands for Iranian compliance on the nuclear issue.
Of course, the more strongly anti-Iranian Western policymakers would credit the weakness of current leaders such as President Obama for the apparent lack of a military option. But another factor in the decision-making processes of those leaders may relate to Iran’s emerging alliances among non-Western countries including China and Russia.
International Business Times reported on Monday that Iran and Russia have both stated that they are just on the verge of signing a long-discussed deal to have Russia build two nuclear power plants near Iran’s existing Russian-built nuclear plant at Bushehr. The additional infrastructure will presumably provide further pretext for Iran’s large-scale uranium enrichment demands, potentially complicating the already difficult attempts to rein in its nuclear program.
This potential complication is all the greater on account of Russia’s presence in the P5+1 group of nations that is negotiating with Iran on that point. The shared nuclear project makes Russia personally invested in the outcome, and furthermore it highlights the closeness between the two countries. This in turn has an impact on more general international relations, especially at a time when both Russia and Iran are under scrutiny from Western powers and are in a position to rely on each other to defray military threats and the effects of economic sanctions.
A New York Times editorial speculates that Russia may help to push through a near-term Iran nuclear deal in order to further distract international attention away from Russian incursions into Ukraine. The author anticipates that the White House might determine that it should not take any serious measures against Russia as long as it is being helpful with the Iran situation. Of course, this implies that the White House might also be willing to link its policies toward the two countries in other ways as well. For instance, it might continue to maintain a soft position on Iran in order to avoid angering Iran’s Russian allies.
If Iran itself has made similar calculations of the Obama administration’s policies, it goes a long way towards explaining the Islamic Republic’s bold foreign policy statements, which seemingly take for granted that there will be no serious response from adversarial powers. These statements include, most recently, Ayatollah Khamenei’s dissemination of a plan for “eliminating Israel.”
The Washington Free Beacon points out that following upon Iran’s earlier calls for Muslims to world over to help arm the West Bank, Khamenei took to Twitter on Sunday to ask “Why should and how can Israel be eliminated?” The supreme leader went on to call upon all of his followers to commit to “armed resistance” against the Jewish state and to pursue it until that state has been destroyed.