When News sources first noted on Jan. 21 that Iran was sending its first warships to the Atlantic, the mission was presumed to be a mere tour of the open seas. On Feb. 8, however, Iran’s Northern Naval Fleet Commander Admiral Afshin Rezayee Haddad announced that the destination of the small convoy–a helicopter carrier and destroyer–would be the U.S. maritime borders, a deliberately provocative gesture aimed at challenging the U.S.
The Iranian “mission creep” was announced only one day after the U.S. Congress dropped efforts to apply new sanctions to Iran in the event that the interim nuclear deal fails. President Barack Obama vowed in his State of the Union Address that he would veto sanctions if they passed. The administration has long argued that even if new sanctions do not technically violate the nuclear agreement, they send the wrong message at a delicate time.
The Iranian regime, however, has no such qualms. In response to Obama’s gesture of conciliation–some might say appeasement–it stepped up its provocation. Iranian TV also aired fictional film of Iranian aircraft attacking U.S. carriers and Israeli cities in retaliation for a hypothetical attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities. And Iranian leader Ayatollah Ali Khameni condemned the U.S., saying that America’s real goal was Iranian regime change.
So while Obama has been eager not to offend, Iran has been eager to challenge American power abroad–and at home. In arguing against further pressure on Iran, President Obama told Congress: “If Iran’s leaders do not seize this opportunity, then I will be the first to call for more sanctions…”. They are seizing the opportunity–not to dismantle their nuclear program, but to threaten the U.S. and assert their aggressive geopolitical ambitions.