MANAMA (Reuters) - Mounting tensions between Iran and the West have accelerated war games the U.S. navy is conducting in the Gulf, a spokesman for the U.S. Fifth Fleet said on Wednesday.Translation: We had this in mind for when things calmed down in Iraq a little, but we believe in striking while the iron's hot
A second U.S. aircraft carrier began exercises in the Gulf on Tuesday -- the first time two such vessels have been sent to patrol Gulf waters since the U.S.-led war on Iraq in 2003.
The U.S. exercises come amid rising tension with Iran over its nuclear program and its capture of British sailors.
"The planning accelerated in conjunction with what was going on, but it was absolutely not the sole determinant ... We are here exercising every day," said Kevin Aandahl, a spokesman for the U.S. Fifth Fleet based in the Gulf island of Bahrain.
Which worries me. Iraq spoke the truth about WMDs before we invaded them. Iran has sent mixed messages about their nuclear enrichment program, but all signs point to cooler heads than Ahmadinejad running the negotiations.
Why do I say this? There's an offer on the table for immediate, nearly unfettered inspection access to Iranian facilities. There's civil unrest over Ahmadinejad's soapboxing. Granted, much of this has occured in the wake of US pressure on Iran, but it's probably more because China and Russia have taken the ayatollahs aside and told them to make inroads to peace.
Iran needs nuclear power, of that there can be no doubt. Iran hit peak oil production around the same time the United States did, and Iran is a modern economy, which means its energy needs have only expanded over the past thirty years. Iran makes enormous amounts of money off its sales to China, so it's not about to cut exports to slake its own crude thirst.
Too, by having an Iran that is weaned from fossil fuels, we could conceivably see an example of how the United States can successfully kick the oil habit as well.
"Trust, but verify," Reagan put it simply, and that philosophy had been a bulwark of American foreign policy through the Clinton administration and guess what? We only had to fight one war and even then, we had the backing of the world.
And it's not a bad philosophy, as simplistic bromides go. However, now we've lost the trust of the world that we would do the right thing as best as we could with this abomination that is our Iraq invasion, and we're paying a heavy price for it in the negotiations with Iran and to some extent, North Korea. Although we did just sign an agreement with them through the six party talks, if you examine that agreement carefully, it doesn't vary much from the agreement the Clinton administration signed, thirteen years ago.
When it mattered more.
Antagonistic actions like sending a second aircraft carrier to the Gulf region is not going to get Iran to the table any faster and may, in fact, bolster Ahmadinejad's faction: fear will do that, cause us to look to the strongest figure who is espousing the simplistic course of action that defends us at the expense of anything else.
How else do you think Bush was able to keep the 2004 election close enough that he could steal a win? Do you remember the bi-monthly "terror alert"?
I expect we'll see the equivalent response from Iran: trot out Ahmadinejad to spew some anti-western rhetoric, throw in a few hegemonic slogans, and end it with a vow to never give in.
The real test comes after that. What will the Iranian people say, with two aircraft carriers parked off the coast? I suspect they may be a bit more defiant of the west this time around, practically begging for the attack to come, if for no other reason than to stop living in uncertainty.
snarkasm, snarcasm, snarky