Swoop: Washington’s World: January 16th – January 22nd, 2012 – Strait, Sanctions and Oil Prices

Swoop: Washington’s World: January 16th – January 22nd, 2012 – Strait, Sanctions and Oil Prices
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Swoop: “Tensions continue to mount over Iran. The Administration finds itself in an awkward dilemma. The increasingly harsh anti-Tehran rhetoric from the Republican presidential candidates limits its diplomatic options. At the same time, US officials want to give the tougher sanctions regime, especially directed against the Iranian central bank and oil revenues, time to work.

US naval assets are gathering in the Gulf region to be ready to counter any Iranian attempt to interfere with international shipping. They remain, however, under orders not to provoke local ‘incidents’ that might escalate uncontrollably. The Administration is not looking for a casus belli. To date, electronic and signals intelligence available to the US does not suggest any significant mobilization by Iranian forces.

As always, Israel remains the wild card. This explains the swift US condemnation of the assassination of an Iranian nuclear scientist. As an NSC official put it to us: “We do not want to be dragged involuntarily up an escalation ladder. We have made this clear to the Israelis.” From our conversations with well-placed contacts, we still expect that war is not inevitable – albeit our confidence in that judgment is less than at any time during the past two years. As one Pentagon source confided: “absent a substantial change in Iranian behavior, the Israelis are moving inexorably closer to taking action.”

In a similar action to contain a volatile situation, the US ‘end game’ in Afghanistan has take a step forward with the opening of a Taliban office in Qatar. Here, US officials hope to participate in some form of dialogue that will allow for internal reconciliation when coalition forces depart in two years time. The Administration has more room for maneuver on Afghanistan than on Iran, given that the drawdown there is less controversial in domestic politics.

In Asia, the resumption of normal relations with Burma showcases the Administration’s efforts to resolve quarrels with regional countries. A larger game is now underway, specifically to signal to China that the US will remain deeply engaged in the Asia-Pacific region and that attempts by China to exploit local differences – as between the US and Burma – to stir up anti-US sentiment will fail. As a State Department official commented to us: “We are not hostile to China, but we do intend to be firm.”

Source: Swoop

Photo Credits:
Bandar-e Abbas: (Possible) Ghadir Mini Submarine (2008) By Podknox / FlickR
110920-N-BT887-095.JPG By USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) / FlickR – STRAIT OF HORMUZ (Sept. 20, 2011) Intelligence Specialist 3rd Class Ross
Massey, from Dunlap, Ill., stands an intelligence watch during the transit of the Strait of Hormuz aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74).