by Ari Lieberman
Amidst growing tensions, a glimpse into the Islamic Republic's mindset.
Amid growing tensions in the Arabian Gulf, the Islamic Republic recently released a 90-minute propaganda film that features a showdown between the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet and the so-called, Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). In the imaginary battle – which represents nothing short of sheer Iranian fantasia and wishful thinking – a lone Iranian naval vessel challenges and destroys the entire U.S. fleet.
The film’s protagonist is a Qassem Soleimani look-a-like. Soleimani heads Iran's Quds Force, the elite military unit responsible for fomenting much of the region’s chaos and bloodshed. The Quds Force currently maintains an active presence in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Yemen and Afghanistan. The film’s director claims that the Iranian government was not involved in the film’s production or financing but that assertion is difficult to fathom. Iranian films must first meet with the mullah stamp of approval before being released to the public and rogue filmmakers who defy strict censorship rules run the grave risk of being given a one-way ticket to Iran’s notorious Evin Prison.
The mullahs enjoy delving in military fantasies that end with imaginary victories but they have short memory spans. The last major military confrontation between U.S. and Iranian naval forces occurred in 1988 and ended badly for the Iranians. The U.S. Navy sunk six Iranian warships and destroyed two Iranian oil platforms in a single day. The Iranian leadership got the message loud and clear.
Amateurish and childish as it is, the film provides the West with insight into the Islamic Republic’s aggressive mindset. It portends troubling developments and should be viewed in the wider context of repeated Iranian provocations.
In early March, a U.S. Navy surveillance ship was harried by Iranian naval vessels near the Strait of Hormuz in two separate incidents. In the first incident, an Iranian frigate closed to within 150 yards of the USS Invincible. In the second, armed Iranian speed boats approached to within 600 yards of the Invincible. A U.S. Navy spokesman termed the Iranian actions “unsafe and unprofessional.”
Against this backdrop, Iran announced that its highly mobile, Russian made S-300 air defense system is now fully deployed and operational. The S-300 is a formidable anti-aircraft system that poses a direct challenge to fourth generation jet fighters such as the F-16, F-15 and F-18 and represents a leap forward for Iranian air defense capabilities. The platform is said to possess a range of at least 125 miles and is capable of simultaneously tracking and striking multiple targets.
Russia withheld delivery of the system to Iran but lifted its ban in 2015 following Obama’s détente with the Islamic Republic. Iran also claimed that it will soon be producing improved domestic versions of the missile but the Islamic Republic often exaggerates its technological achievements and claims of this nature must be viewed with a healthy dose of skepticism. In 2013, Iran unveiled what it claimed to be a domestically produced 5th generation fighter with stealth capabilities but aviation experts quickly dismissed the Iranian claim as a bad fake.
Nevertheless, the deployment of the S-300 represents a dangerous escalation. The S-300 can be used as an offensive weapon and will be utilized to safeguard Iran’s vast nuclear facilities and secretive military research centers.
On March 9, the commander of the IRGC “Aerospace Force,” Brigadier General Amir Ali Hajizadeh announced that the IRGC successfully test-fired a domestically produced ballistic missile that struck a floating barge from a distance of 250km. He claimed that the missile, dubbed the Hormuz-2, is capable of accurately striking targets as far as 300km (186 miles). The missile could very well be a copy of the sophisticated Russian Yakhont cruise missile or its less sophisticated cousin, the Chinese C-802.
The Iranians have already transferred both of these weapon systems to their mercenary Shia proxy force, Hezbollah. The provocative test launch was designed to project strength and to signal to the Trump administration that the Navy’s 5th Fleet is vulnerable.
Trump has already noted that the Iranians are “playing with fire” and has slapped additional sanctions on the regime for violating United Nations Security Council resolution 2231, which calls on Iran to refrain from developing and test-firing ballistic missiles. Clearly however, the recent U.S. action has had no effect on the mullahs who seem eager for a showdown with America.
The Obama administration’s pathetic efforts to engage with the Islamic Republic and satiate its imperialistic appetite with ransom payments, lobbying efforts, uranium shipments and $150 billion in sanctions relief has only served to strengthen and embolden the regime.
In the meantime, while the U.S. and its allies – including Britain and Israel – ponder their next moves, the malignant Islamic Republic continues to expand its hegemony, solidifying its stranglehold over the Mideast from Baghdad to Beirut, Damascus to Sana'a.
Ari Lieberman is an attorney and former prosecutor who has authored numerous articles and publications on matters concerning the Middle East and is considered an authority on geo-political and military developments affecting the region.
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