MOSCOW. (RIA Novosti political commentator Pyotr Goncharov) -- The world is now discussing the possible use of force by the United States against Iran.
Many experts said Great Prophet, the latest Iranian military exercise in the Persian Gulf, highlighted Tehran's determination based on real military might. Still, others say Iran was merely bluffing.
The Iranian media reported that the national Armed Forces were testing unique up-to-date weapons and equipment in the Gulf. Notably, Iran successfully test-fired a high-speed, maneuverable and heat-seeking Misaq-1 surface-to-air missile (SAM), as well as a medium-range and remote-controlled Kowsar surface-to-sea missile, which zeroes in on its target and which can successfully cope with ECM (Electronic Counter-Measures) systems. Iran also tested a modern flying boat that can skim waves at up to 100 knots.
The new Fajr-3 radar-evading ballistic missile and the Hut torpedo, the Iranian Navy's fastest underwater weapon with a speed of 100 meters per second, were also launched.
Iran made it clear that it completely controlled the Strait of Hormuz, through which the Middle East exports 80% of its oil. Tehran also said it was ready for war, and that any encroachment on its interests in the Persian Gulf would
meet with a resolute response from the water, from under the water, from the air, from islands and the coast.
The United States and Israel, which are Tehran's main opponents, reacted skeptically to this show of force and said Iran was deliberately bluffing and over-exaggerating its military potential in the context of possible UN Security Council (UNSC) sanctions.
These statements seem logical because six U.S. carrier task forces are far more powerful than the Iranian Armed Forces. Four of them are deployed in the Persian Gulf, while two others are plying the southern Mediterranean. Each carrier task force has 80 to 90 modern warplanes, compared to the 360 aircraft of the Iranian Air Force. According to experts, the technical state of 40-60% of these planes leaves much to be desired.
The Pentagon would therefore easily establish regional air supremacy over the Persian Gulf, just like it did in the war against Iraq. It should not be doubted that U.S. warplanes would destroy any potentially hostile ship in the Strait of Hormuz and deprive Tehran of its ship-launched Fajr-3 missiles and Hut torpedoes.
Why did Iran hold these war games at a time when it apparently does not stand a chance against the six U.S. carrier task forces, which have better personnel and impressive combat cohesion?
Tehran does not seem to be bluffing because it has enough time to think and to bargain with the UNSC and the United States. Moreover, Iran could still display its determination to defend uranium enrichment rights within its nuclear program.
Experts say the United States will not attack Iran before September, if it sums up resolve to do so. General James L. Jones, Supreme Allied Commander Europe, said the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) would establish complete control over Afghanistan this August, rather than in October-November 2006. The United States will not declare war on Iran, unless it makes sure that Afghanistan is secured.
On the other hand, Washington should not delay the Iranian operation in the context of the congressional election this November. Consequently, September - October seem like an optimal deadline for attacking Iran.
Iran therefore has enough time to display its determination and to accomplish several objectives. For instance, it could try to persuade the international community that Washington's efforts aiming to force Tehran to renounce its right to uranium enrichment operations are both dangerous and unjustified. Iran could also try to convince the UNSC that its nuclear file should be returned to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). And, finally, Iran, which unequivocally wants to be a leading Mideastern power, could make Washington nervous and show that the United States is not omnipotent. It seems that Tehran will not give up its positions without a fight and that it will try to force Washington to heed its interests.