On Friday, Rear Adm. Michael Gilday, the director of the US Joint Staff, said that Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) was responsible for this month’s attacks on four oil tankers off the UAE coast. “The attack against the shipping in Fujairah, we attribute it to the IRGC,” he said, adding that the US believed that “limpet mines” were used in the attacks.
The ship attacks coincided with drone attacks by Houthi militias — a proxy for Iran — on oil installations in Saudi Arabia. The attacks appeared to be coordinated as part of a campaign by Iran in response to US sanctions on its oil exports. Tehran had earlier threatened to prevent other nations from exporting oil if the US continued its sanctions against Iran’s oil exports.
The attacks and threats by the IRGC and its proxies also appeared to be a response to the US decision last month to designate the IRGC as a terrorist organization. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said at the time: “This designation is a direct response to an outlaw regime and should surprise no one. The IRGC masquerades as a legitimate military organization, but none of us should be fooled.”
In response to the terrorist designation, IRGC leaders threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz and attack US forces in the region. The repeated threats and subsequent attacks on oil shipping and pipelines have been met with an increased readiness on the part of US forces and its allies in the Gulf. Joint exercises, close coordination and additional fresh troops from the US, in small numbers, were part of this increased readiness to safeguard the freedom of navigation and protect critical oil infrastructure.
The posture of the US military and its allies remains defensive in nature and to deter future attacks. However, these precautionary moves have thrown Iran’s officials into a frenzy. While Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif and other diplomats have preached peace, IRGC leaders have continued their bellicose rhetoric against the US and its allies. In Lebanon, Hezbollah, another IRGC proxy, intensified its threats against the US and its Gulf partners. In Iraq, militias loyal to Iran started a campaign aimed at ending the US military presence in the country.
More ominously, the Houthis intensified their missile and drone attacks against Saudi Arabia. After the twin attacks on the strategic East-West oil pipeline, they targeted the holy city of Makkah and the civilian airports of Najran and Jizan in southwestern Saudi Arabia. While those threats were intercepted and did not cause casualties, the increase in the number of attacks signals a new, higher level of coordination to serve Iran’s purposes in its faceoff with the US.
Militias loyal to Iran also increased their attacks against civilians in Syria in support of Bashar Assad’s campaign to squash the rebellion against his hold on power. In every hot spot in the Middle East, IRGC-trained and funded militias have shown little or no interest in diplomacy or trying to find political solutions to complicated internal struggles. Instead, they rely on violence and whipping up religious hatred to fan the flames of various civil wars.
It is for these reasons that Iran’s worn-out diplomatic cliches ring hollow. First, Iran has said that it has no interest in negotiating with the US “directly or indirectly” in response to President Donald Trump’s calls for talks between the two countries. Second, Iran has rejected calls for revisiting the nuclear deal, while at the same time announcing that it was planning to violate some of its provisions. Third, it has rejected European and US calls to negotiate about its ballistic missile program and its regional activities. The US and Europe have repeatedly expressed genuine desire for negotiations to address real concerns about Iran’s conduct, including its ballistic missile program and destabilizing activities in the region — conduct that frequently and flagrantly violates universally accepted rules of state action. Iran has declined to negotiate seriously, declaring, for example, that its missile program was off-limits or the alleged malign activities were lies spread by its enemies.
Fourth, Iran has frustrated previous attempts at mending fences with its neighbors. More than two years ago, the Gulf Cooperation Council sent a letter to Iran proposing that the two sides agree on a set of principles that should govern their relationship. They included adherence to the UN-mandated principle of respect for national borders, political independence, and sovereignty of nations. They also included rejecting sectarianism and refraining from interfering in the internal affairs of neighboring countries.
So, for Iranian diplomacy to be credible, Iran has to respond positively to previous calls for negotiations and it has to rein in the IRGC to stop it from spreading mischief in the region. This of course is far too achievable since as we have noticed during the past 40 years, the clerical regime ruling Iran is not exporting Terrorism and Extremism to the Region and the world out of a choice, these criminal actions are vital for a medieval Religious Fascism in 21st century since with this mechanism it has been trying desperately to divert attentions from its corrupt and suppressive regime.
Source: Arab News