A defiant Iran and a prickly US-Israel alliance moved further down the slippery slope to a shooting match on Wednesday as Washington sent a second aircraft carrier into the Strait of Hormuz even as Tehran announced key nuclear technology advances and threatened cuts in oil supplies to six EU nations.
In acts of mutual provocation, the nuclear-powered USS Abraham Lincoln sailed within sniffing distance of Iran, going through the Straits of Hormuz,that is only 21 nautical miles wide at its narrowest point, inviting an Iranian patrol boat to tail it within two miles.
Iran also responded by upping the nuclear ante, defiantly showcasing advances in nuclear technology in the face of US-Israel led sanctions regime aimed at curtailing its possible development of nuclear weapons.
Iran had earlier threatened to shut down the Straits of Hormuz, through which 20% of the world’s oil supply passes (not to speak of US supplies to the Af-Pak theatre), if it was attacked.
Teheran was reported to have cut oil supplies to six European nations, including the PIGS countries (Portugal, Italy, Greece and Spain) which are in an economic crisis, in an effort to get ahead of European sanctions that is expected to kick in soon.
All these moves followed violent and mostly covert confrontation between the US-Israel alliance and Iran. There have been mysterious assassinations of Iranian nuclear scientists which Teheran thinks is the handiwork of the US-Israel alliance.
Now, Israeli diplomats and assets have been attacked in three capitals across the world, including New Delhi, which Israel believes is the handiwork of Iranian agents.
New Delhi is stuck between Iran, vital to India’s energy security, and a hard place (US and Israel) that is key to its military and technological well-being. The duo is putting tremendous pressure on New Delhi to forsake Iranian oil.
But like China, India remains unmoved, causing much handwringing in Washington.
In fact, even loyal US allies like Japan and South Korea are reluctant to follow the US-Israel diktat, causing some pundits to pronounce the sanctions a failure. Each of the four countries imports about 10% of their oil supplies from Iran.
In US, polls show there is little appetite for another war even though a section of the neoconservative establishment is itching for a shootout to punish Iran.
Having shut down US military operations in Iraq, president Obama is also winding down fromAfghanistan ahead of the November elections, and some pundits seen the Iranians pushing the envelope knowing the US president’s political constraints.