A month ago, we wrote,
- “So Iran’s so-called power is being reduced step by step & Iran is being forced into a local posture instead of a pan-gulf posture. And its economy is in shambles with its people struggling financially. Iran’s leaders are neither stupid nor dumb. They might authorize or even permit their militias to undertake small localized sabotage provided plausible deniability is maintained. But they know they invite destruction from the skies on their infrastructure & their organizations.” [emphasis today]
Now the global news media is full of theories about who attacked the two tankers in the Gulf of Oman this week roughly 30 miles from the Iranian port town of Jask and just southeast of the Strait of Hormuz. This attack still has the cover of plausible deniability & it is a localized sabotage. Further it was an attack on a Japanese & a Norwegian tanker. So it did not rise to the level of an anti-US act.
Could this have been an attack by the Government of Iran? Yes. Could it have been an attack by a militia of or within the Islamic Revolutionary Guards without the knowledge of the Iranian “Government”? Yes. Have they been reports of some IRGC commanders fleeing or arrested in some media entities? Yes. Have such reports been confirmed by any entity of size or repute? No.
We continue to believe that President Trump does not want a shooting conflict with Iran. In fact, that might be against his commitments to the American people. Secretary of State Pompeo also said the US has no interest in a shooting conflict with Iran, a statement that was also backed by the US Navy.
But the Trump Administration is absolutely committed to a campaign of maintaining intense economic & strategic pressure on Iran. That pressure is beginning to hurt & hurt badly. In particular, it is quite possibly escalating the internal conflicts between the Iranian Revolutionary Guards and the ruling Government in Iran. The Government knows that a military war with USA would be a disaster & the Supreme Leader knows such a war might prove to be the end of the religious regime.
On the other hand, Iran has built up a degree of asymmetric naval warfare capabilities. So the Revolutionary Guards or a faction within the Guards might want to send a physical message about their capabilities to America & their neighbors. Such a message could raise their stature within the IRGC and within the Iranian ruling coalition.
Capabilities & a higher than sensible belief in their capabilities might tempt such hardline factions within IRGC to flex these capabilities. Then there is the fear that a real war would lead to decimation of such capabilities. So it might be better to use them against America before America destroys these capabilities of Iran.
There is no question that Iran is in trouble and there is no question that the Supreme Leader & the Government know that. We also believe they understand that President Trump is unlikely to launch military strikes against Iran unless he is virtually forced to do so by Iran or one of its crazy factions by a direct attack on American facilities or ships.
The Iranian leaders are smart & trained in the tactics of the bazaar. We still think they will exercise greater control over their factions to minimize any accidental conflagration. We hope they can and that is the big bet.
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