Analysis

Erratic Iranian Behavior Points to a Volatile and Dangerous Year
An Iranian navy ship fires a Mehrab short range missile during a naval exercise in the Strait of Hormuz, January 1, 2012. (EBRAHIM NOROOZI/AFP/Getty Images)
January 3, 2012
| Security
| Middle East and North Africa
Summary
2012 begins with a growing danger from Iran, which is flexing its muscles with missile tests, threats to close the Strait of Hormuz and a bold claim that it has constructed its first nuclear fuel rod. In this special analysis, which includes interviews with former CIA Director Michael Hayden, former UN Ambassador John Bolton, and former Ambassador to Venezuela Otto Reich, LIGNET looks at these developments and what they portend for 2012.

Iran’s threatening behavior over the last week is consistent with other recent provocative behavior, such as an Iranian plot to use members of a Mexican drug cartel to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the United States and a November 2011 raid by Iranian “students” on the British embassy in Tehran.  This behavior comes at a time when Iran finds itself in its most isolated position since the 1979 Iranian Revolution. Economic sanctions are hurting the Iranian economy and even more painful sanctions are being contemplated by Europe and the United States. There is open talk of an Israeli strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities. These factors, plus fissures within the Iranian leadership and political maneuvering ahead of the March 2012 parliamentary elections and the June 2013 presidential elections, are creating a volatile situation in Iran that raises the prospects for miscalculation that could lead to a military confrontation over the next 12 months.

Iranian Army chief Major General Ataollah Salehi warned the United States on January 2 that a U.S. aircraft carrier, the USS John C. Stennis, which recently left the Persian Gulf on a routine mission, should not re-enter the Gulf. A U.S. Navy spokesman rejected Iran's threat, saying that "the deployment of U.S. military assets in the Persian Gulf will continue as it has for decades."

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