Saturday, February 12, 2011

Iranian Warships Send Message: Tehran Now Number-One Muslim Power in Region

By Barry Rubin

It is common today to speak of the U.S. overthrow of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein as having unintentionally made revolutionary Islamist Iran from more powerful. Will the overthrow of Egyptian dictator Husni Mubarak have a similar effect?

Here's something that might be a sign in that direction. Two Islamic Republic of Iran warships just visited the Saudi port of Jeddah in the Red Sea. No, that wasn't a misprint, I said "Red Sea," and not "Persian Gulf." This is the first time Iranian warships have been in the Red Sea, just down the coast from Israel and just across from Egypt.

Not only is this a strategic alarm bell for the United States and Israel but also for the Saudis themselves. Bereft now of their last significant Arab ally and feeling unable to depend on the United States, the Saudis are facing their worst strategic situation since the 1950s at a time when Iran is spreading its influence and racing toward nuclear weapons.

But that's not the only kind of weapon Iran is getting. It just sank a floating target with a new missile having a 250-300 km. range with high accuracy. Called, rather significantly, "Persian Gulf" (Khalij Fars), it has a sophisticated guidance system, is based on Chinese versions, and operated by the Islamic Revolution Guards Corp (IRGC).

Defense News explains: "The implications for the U.S. Navy are serious....Iran could potentially track U.S. Navy carrier groups at long distances [and] try to target [them] without early warning. It also means that the U.S. Navy cannot consider the [Persian]Gulf as safe....

Nor the Red Sea either.

Gradually but steadily, the Iranian regime is building up its power, even aside from nuclear weapons. Though it might take many years, one day--through Iranian miscalculation or hubris--there might be a U.S.-Iran war in the Persian Gulf.


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