Spelling Danger

Iranian navy off U.S. coast?


Spelling Danger
by Trita Parsi

The world has grown accustomed to Iranian bluster. But even by the standards of the Islamic Republic, Adm. Habibollah Sayari's call last week to deploy the Iranian navy near the U.S. coast is stunning. The Pentagon knows, of course, that Iranian war vessels won't come near America's shores any time soon. As White House spokesman Jay Carney said, "We don't take these statements seriously, given that they do not reflect at all Iran's naval capabilities." The Iranian admiral may bark, but he doesn't have much of a bite.

Still, the loss of a sense of proportion revealed by the rhetoric of Iranian leaders tells us several things about the country's disorientation in the face of citizen uprisings that are still shaking the region. It also tells us that three years into President Obama's term, the U.S. and Iran remain perilously close to confrontation.

Iran is a country that has lost its regional momentum. Tehran cleverly utilized America's many mistakes in the Middle East during the George W. Bush administration to expand its sphere of influence and fill the power vacuum left by a declining United States. The enemies Iran could not defeat were crushed by the U.S. military, and the standing it could not achieve on its own fell into Tehran's lap through the plummeting of America's regional status.

But rising on the back of American missteps could only carry Iran so far. After the brutal repression of its people following the fraudulent presidential elections of 2009, and the rise of the Arab populations elsewhere in the region against their dictators, Tehran has lost its strategic sense of direction.

Though the Islamic Republic had predicted — and indeed applauded — an Arab Spring, it was nevertheless surprised by the absence of a prominent anti-American dimension to the protests. With no appetite among the Arab protesters to direct their anger against America, Iran faced great difficulty exploiting Arab frustrations, particularly since its government had no intention of embracing for Iran the kind of changes being demanded by demonstrators in neighboring countries.

The Arab Spring has diminished Iran's ability to wield soft power in the region. Instead, the momentum has shifted to Turkey, which has not been shy about stealing pages from the Iranian playbook for appealing to the Arab street.

When the strength of a state declines, its desperation increases. Its statements grow more aggressive and fear — more than calculation — guides its actions. Much indicates that the Islamic Republic is experiencing this right now, partly because of regional developments but mainly due to the state's internal weaknesses following the 2009 elections.

Yet, though it is preposterous to think that the American mainland is under some form of military threat by Iran, Tehran's disorientation has not reduced the risk of a U.S.-Iran confrontation. Indeed, the combination of three important factors explains why the U.S. military leadership has voiced its concerns that an accidental clash in the Persian Gulf could spiral out of control.

First, America's declining influence has created a vacuum in the region that begs to be filled. The ensuing jockeying for position and the creation of a new regional pecking order have given birth to geopolitical turmoil.

Second, this turmoil comes at a time when most regional powers are suffering from unusual internal political weakness. The ability to conduct effective foreign policy has been compromised by internal divisions. Decisions about crucial strategic matters are increasingly made on the basis of domestic politics rather than geopolitical calculus.

This near-collapse of statecraft is clearly visible in Israel. The government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has chosen to limit its foreign policy maneuverability to whatever its fragile governing coalition can endure. Disproportionate foreign policy risks are accepted in order to prolong the life span of the coalition at the expense of Israel's long-term interest.

Egypt, Iraq and Syria all suffer from political instability, in different forms and for different reasons. And while Saudi Arabia has managed to buy off its protesters, it will be facing a succession crisis in the next few years that could spark a Saudi Spring.

In Iran, political cannibalism within the Iranian elite has reached new heights. While this has not necessarily given birth to a new Iranian adventurism (beyond the harsh rhetoric), it has paralyzed the state and weakened its ability to maneuver in a changing strategic environment. This is particularly the case when it comes to crucial issues such as its relations with the United States.

Third, this paralysis is all the more dangerous in an environment in which the parties aren't on talking terms. This has led to a collapse of statecraft and an increase in bluster that could prove quite dangerous. One small spark could cause a conflagration.

The U.S. military leadership is rightfully worried about this situation. The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Michael G. Mullen, has repeatedly raised the lack of communication between the United States and Iran as a major concern in the last few weeks.

"We are not talking to Iran so we don't understand each other," Mullen said last month. "If something happens … it's virtually assured that we won't get it right." The lack of communication has planted seeds for miscalculation, Mullen argued. And miscalculations often lead to dangerous escalations.

Mullen's diagnosis is on target, as evidenced by the escalation in Iranian bluster. Talking to the Iranians is not guaranteed to resolve the fundamental issues that have created this dangerous atmosphere. But it might ensure that in the midst of the barking, there isn't an accidental bite.

First published in latimes.com

Trita Parsi is president of the National Iranian American Council and the author of the forthcoming book, "A Single Roll of the Dice: Obama's Diplomacy with Iran."


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Veiled Prophet of Khorasan

UN & Syria

by Veiled Prophet of Khorasan on


How about US; and all the others give up theri "veto". Then UN won't be suck a joke.

Veiled Prophet of Khorasan

Re: khafamon kard

by Veiled Prophet of Khorasan on


You said it! I see MK and just skip it. So far not one post that made any sense to me. I know I lack the "intellectual" ability to get the prof.

Darius Kadivar

US can't even Act on Syria how do you expect it to act on Iran ?

by Darius Kadivar on


khafamon kard in agha

by onlyinamrica on

in aghaye kazemzadeh ham ba in tomarhaye derazesh hama ro khafeh kardeh. ajab mosibati darim ha.  jane madaret velesh kon bereh.

Shazde Asdola Mirza

Double Talk + Whitewashing + Camouflaged Lobbying

by Shazde Asdola Mirza on

What else is new in the Traitor land?

Veiled Prophet of Khorasan

Here we go

by Veiled Prophet of Khorasan on


more baseless and frankly insulting accusations:

G Rahmanian writes:

There's one obvious distinction between the two, though, NIAC has been turned into a cult. Thus the commotions you have observed recently.

What is your definition of a cult?

  • Does NIAC punish members for leaving: no
  • Does it require people to donate all their belongings to it: no
  • Do members have to move in a camp.: no
  • Do they have intensive indoctrination: no
  • Do members pledge devotion to TP: no
  • What do members do: mostly nothing other than maybe 100 $ a year
  • Do they send an email once a while: yes
  • Do they invite people for a conference: yes
  • Do they legally lobby USA: yes

Any credibility Mr. Rahmanian may have had with me vanished with the above. We got a group of people who frankly do not understand what a cult is. By the above then the local PTO {parent teacher organization} is a cult! As is the police fund; my local chess club; all political parties; moveon.org; you name it. I donated to IC then this must also be a cult. Folks get real! I know you HATE TP and you HATE NIAC and you HATE it. So get a picture of TP and stomp on it. Will make you feel better!

Now it is time for my daily TP prayer. Got to run.

If you want a real cult go see MEK. After all they are the Neocon favorite to save Israel ops I mean Iran.

G. Rahmanian


by G. Rahmanian on

"The leadership of NIAC is committed to lobbying for IR, ..." And that's exactly why many criticize NIAC! It's being the friend of the enemy that attracts the critical views. Remember CASMII? That was a similar phenomenon. There's one obvious distinction between the two, though, NIAC has been turned into a cult. Thus the commotions you have observed recently.

Veiled Prophet of Khorasan

Petrochemical Strike

by Veiled Prophet of Khorasan on


Here is a link on articles I found:



Disclaimer: I don't know these sites; who runs them and whether they are legitimate.  There were others by MEK which I refuse to put links to.

I figure better to discuss real things than read endless NIAC bashing.

Masoud Kazemzadeh

Mash Ghasem jaan, WHO is YOUR Enemy?

by Masoud Kazemzadeh on

MG:  "The leadership of NIAC is committed to lobbying for IR..."



Mash Ghasem jaan,

As our friend, divaneh, elegantly put it: the enemy of our enemy may or may not be our friend, but certainly the friend of our enemy is our enemy.

If you agree that the vf regime is your enemy, and if YOUR assertion is true that "The leadership of NIAC is committed to lobbying for IR," then it would logically follow that the NIAC leadership is your enemy.

If the above logic is correct, then try to see the forest. Merely concentrating on a tree here or a tree over there, would not help the struggle. Correctly seeing the forest (the big picture) is necessary for having a strategy. Once you have a strategy, then you could choose your tactics. The basic of strategy is understanding what is your goal, who is your enemy, who are your enemy’s friends, and who are your friends and allies. Then, you could choose the tactics which weaken your enemy and friends of enemies. And choose those tactics which will strengthen your friends and allies.




iraj khan

What is Soft Power?

by iraj khan on

Among other things softpower is:

"Soft power is non-traditional forces such as cultural and commercial goods"

Because of the Arab Spring many doors have been opened to Iran to move in countries such as Egypt and achieve soft power through trade, charity work etc.

PS: Stop name calling Faramarz and instead prove it otherwise.

- Iraj


ایرج چاخان!




ایرج چاخان،

تو هم که رژیمی از کار در اومدی! آخه انقلاب مردم مصر و تونس و لیبی چه ربطی به این آخوند های حروم زاده داره؟

ملت عرب نه یک عکس خمینی رو علم کردن و نه یک پرچم امریکا رو آتش زدن. ول معطلی حاجی!

Veiled Prophet of Khorasan

Dear MG

by Veiled Prophet of Khorasan on



VPK, there was an item on Petrochemichal workers' strike in the news section. Our esteemed news editor, didn't even see it fit to put it in the little news section all the way at the bottom of the page , where no one reads it anyways!

Well that is a shame. How about a link to it or I could google for it. Maybe our editor should have a policy of featuring these things. 

Maybe we should put up a blog saying "TRITA PARSI" then put a link to the news :-)

Anahid Hojjati

my response to MG ' s recent comments on this thread

by Anahid Hojjati on

I don't appeciate tone of MG on this thread. Relations between US and Iran are important too and people should be free to write about it without being made feel guilty by MG that everone every minute should write about prisoners or workers. This is the blog I wrote in response and it,  I addressed another concern too.


Veiled Prophet of Khorasan

Dear Vildermose

by Veiled Prophet of Khorasan on


That is a great question and the response is not as easy as you may think. Nazi and specially Hitler were EVIL to the core. But very different from IRI. In retrospect no Germany and Nazi party did not benefit from Hitler. That is obvious as Germany lay in ruins. Divided and defeated. With much of its land lost to this day to Poland. There is not question

But initially they did pretty well. Germany went from a bankrupt post WWI nation to a power to be reckoned with. No more hyper inflation. The Nazi were really different than IRI. Yes they were evil but that is about were the similarity ends. The Nazi nearly took the world. IRI was hard pressed to hold against Saddam. The Nazi had a highly developed scientific and military system. Probably the best of its time. They made two major mistakes:

  • Persecution of Jews and other minorities.
  • Fighting on too many fronts at once.

Had they not made these mistakes we would be speaking German now. IRI is lucky to imitate the third rate North Korean rockets. They still don't have a working reactor. 

Mash Ghasem

It's a matter of priority, focus and urgency

by Mash Ghasem on

There's not a single excuse on earth to not have defense of prisoners in Iran as the most urgent priority and focus. Anything less than that is simply unacceptable. Outta here,

VPK, there was an item on Petrochemichal workers' strike in the news section. Our esteemed news editor, didn't even see it fit to put it in the little news section all the way at the bottom of the page , where no one reads it anyways!



by MM on

We, on IC have talked on some detail about this issue.  NIAC is an Iranian-American organization, it is located in DC and her sphere of influence is the US government on policies that affect the Iranian-Americans and Iran on the remaining ca. 20% time.  There are other venues to do just what you suggested.  In addition, when TP writes about HR issues in iran, people are very quick to dismiss it and move on.


e.g., see

Human Rights Violations in Iran Must Cease


 Did Nazi Germany benefit

by vildemose on

 Did Nazi Germany benefit under Hitler?




"We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can't have both." - Louis D. Brandeis

Veiled Prophet of Khorasan


by Veiled Prophet of Khorasan on


Lots of things have a lot to be desired but there is an obsession with NIAC. I think the reason is that it is a threat to AIPAC. You may disagree. I see people not asking but demanding inconsistent things. Always demanding but never doing anything themselves.

For example: don't talk to IRI but influence them anyway. Stop IRI from executing people as if IRI takes orders from NIAC. Even if NIAC were in the pay of IRI which is a big if. Why would IRI take orders from them? It reminds me of when I was in college. It was the hostage days. I worked in a lab and the technician there demanded I "free the hostages". I replied "you think IRI takes orders from me!". What makes you think NIAC has any real power in Iran.

Here is another. Why don't others write an article about strikes in Iran? Or if someone writes on comment on it. JJ has not banned articles by people other than TP. 

Next is the "Rapid Response" allegation. Who is this so called "Rapid Response" network. Do you have proof of it. Maybe it does exists for real or maybe it is in the mind of people.

Going on some make jabs about those going to Iran. Why should people not go to Iran. They have loved ones they want to see. Does having family in Iran make you guilty. If so I and most people I know are guilty. 

In conclusion I look forward to someone maybe you writing about the strike. I would love to know about it. Yes I could probably read Al Jazeera or BBC. But if you have family who know it first hand please write.

Mash Ghasem

How about inventing some "code words" that could focus the

by Mash Ghasem on

attention to where it truly belongs: within Iran, for the activists dying in the prisons, or those "lucky" enough to be free for now, and protesting, and needing our attention, support and solidarity.

Mokhles hamegi, Ya Hagh.

Veiled Prophet of Khorasan


by Veiled Prophet of Khorasan on


has a good point a lot of it is us. If we put up a blog with a "normal" topic few pay attention. But if we put the same topic up and just put a "code word" in the title we get a ton of posts.

Mash Ghasem

MM jan appreciate your solidarity, but NIAC leaves so much to

by Mash Ghasem on

to be desired.

Why can't TP write a blog on Petrochemical Workers on Strike (on their 10th day) and ask the community to support them? How about Faranak Farid? Why doesn't NIAC has a Rapid Response Network for all the political prisoners in Iran? So as soon as we have anyone arrested, everyone will be informed and asked to do something about it. (it surely has the material and intellectual capacity and resources to do so). The leadershipof NIAC is committed to lobbying for IR, while some of its rank and file, like yourself or Ari try to do as much as you can.

It still leaves so much to be covered. Our focus should be all on Protest Movements within Iran and their needs: anything else is a distraction, and unforgiveable.

Mokhles shoma, ya hagh.


iraj khan

Not so,

by iraj khan on

Mr Parsi states:

"The Arab Spring has diminished Iran's ability to wield soft power in the region"

It is not so. Lets take Egypt for example, the new rulers of Egypt have opened up to the idea of restarting diplomatic relation with Iran. This will open up Egypt for Iran to connect with the Egyptian masses through charity works etc.


Mash Ghasem - I am with you on this one

by MM on

When I put up a blog called Practical path towards democracy, not many suggestions nor comments were drawn to it, but as soon as NIAC makes a comment/article here, people come out of woodworks that TP is this and that.  The problem is that if we do not cut off the BS, the old style Iranian "parvandeh-saazi" just keeps on giving.


Mash Ghasem

by Faramarz on

Mash Ghasem,

Since you addressed all the commentators, I am replying to you and I am only speaking for myself here.

When I speak about a confrontation between the US military and the Regime and the red phone to limit the damages, I am not talking about an intervention by the US and the West to come in and save the people of Iran from this brutal regime. Not at all. That work will and should be done by the Iranians themselves. But if they ask for help, the West should be ready to accommodate, as much as it can.

However, the Regime has put itself on a collision course with the West by its behavior in the Region, meddling in the internal affairs of the neighbors, secret nuclear program and a whole host of other activities that is completely independent of the internal politics of Iran and the opposition movement. In that context, the Regime will look for some minor skirmish as a distraction and rallying cry to suppress the dissent, and the West will return the favor by an overwhelming military force to protect its interests, including but not limited to the free flow of oil.

Mash Ghasem

Why all you people are off, way off. All you people includes the

by Mash Ghasem on

'author' and the commentators.

A very simple reason: Iran's prisons are brimming with arrestees: we have workers on strike all over Iran: we have  students protesting since the begining of the new academic year,....and all you (the 'author' and the rest of you) could think is how to 'cool' things down bertweeen US and IR.

Even those opposed to TP don't point out to social protests in Iran, and how: these protests and the movements behind them are the way out of, and the true altertnative to IR, (not the US army, navy or airforce). Of course expecting anything but such a repetitive, morbid, useless  "discussion" amongst this crowd would be truly out of place.

Keep discussing the same old obtuse scenarios  about MEK, 'red phone,' and all those irrelevant topics you've been discussing for the past god know how many years in here.

Social protests and social movements in Iran have nothing to do with you all and vice versa!

Just ask yourselves how many times, on this very site you have 'discussed' this very topic of detente between IR and US; how many times have you discussed MEK; ...while all the prisons in Iran are piling up with the best and bravest,...khejalat ham khob chizieh.



@Ramin J: Be consistent

by MeyBokhor_Manbarbesuzan on

You did not end you own comment with the required number of f...s, rapists, hate this and that.   Hala be salamatiye f... salavat...


Admiral gondeh goozy farmoodand! :-)

by Disenchanted on


     We know what happend to Kharee ke dar pooste sheer raft!

Veiled Prophet of Khorasan

Sir Baron John Mullens

by Veiled Prophet of Khorasan on


Re Mullen

by Parham on

He's part of the tough talk. Otherwise I'm pretty sure he knows what really happened in the Gulf of Tonkin in 1964.


Parham - tell that to Mullen too

by MM on