Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, made several stops in the Persian Gulf region over the weekend to try and shore up a coalition of support against Iran. She said Iran was becoming a military dictatorship and the clerical and political groups were losing control. She claimed the parliament was being supplanted and the Revolutionary Guard was taking over control.
Clinton was trying to get Saudi Arabia to agree to supply oil to China in place of the oil they currently purchase from Iran. By choking off Iran's trading partners Iran would undergo additional financial stress and probably bring about a regime change in the strife torn country.
The populace does not fully support the president or the supreme leader and once the next round of sanctions takes effect the fire under the cauldron of unrest will burn hotter. The U.S. and its allies are trying to halt shipments of gasoline and diesel into Iran and shutoff their sales of oil to other nations. It may take many months to tighten the screws but the recent announcement they could enrich uranium to 20% or even 80% if they wanted has suddenly galvanized the world power into action.
Clinton was quick to clarify the U.S. had no current plans to attack Iran but simply by mentioning it she put the cards on the table for all to see. She also made it clear that the U.S. would defend all Persian Gulf countries from attack by Iran by extending a so called "defense umbrella" around the Persian Gulf. "We will always defend ourselves, and we will always defend our friends and allies and we will certainly defend the countries who are in the Gulf and who face the greatest immediate threat from Iran," Clinton said in a meeting in Qatar.
Qatar is one of four Persian Gulf countries, along with the UAE, Bahrain and Kuwait that have accepted missile-defense batteries that are designed to shoot down short-range Iranian missiles.
Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters in Israel on Sunday that the U.S. is very serious about imposing harsh sanctions on Iran and hoped that these steps "would not end in violence." Like the Clinton comments this was another implied threat that Iran better clean up its act soon or there would be violence in the form of an attack. In the diplomatic circle saying "we are not planning for an attack" means we can plan for an attack if you don't act now. It is a diplomatic ploy to warn of future consequences without actually threatening attack.
Mullen even went farther saying, "a military strike option is on the table, but we are not there yet" and adding the U.S. would rather see a diplomatic resolution. This is another not so subtle warning.
When asked if the U.S. would prevent Israel from striking Iran on its own Mullen said Jerusalem backed the U.S. position on Iran because the U.S. was committed to the security of Israel. In diplospeak he did not say Israel would not attack but he did say the U.S. would attack if Israel's security were threatened.
It is clear that the U.S. administration has finally decided to get tough on Iran. President Obama has so many problems at home that he sudden interest in fixing the Iran problem has given him a dozen public appearances where he was able to talk tough and look presidential instead of having to duck questions about failed appointments and a failing agenda. It is all about sound bites and Iran's constant press releases over the last couple weeks has given the U.S. administration plenty of ammunition to fire up the political machine. We have Clinton and Mullen hitting the Middle East hot spots last week making speech after speech about Iran.
Vice President Biden is scheduled to make a trip there next week to press for cooperation. This is a full court press but I doubt it will lead to anything concrete. President Obama is going to anger China next week by meeting with the Dali Lama and that is not going to help with their cooperation on Iran sanctions. I suspect this sudden push in the press to sanction Iran will eventually lose ifs momentum and the U.N. will end up passing another hand slap to Iran and they will continue enriching uranium until the eventual bomb comes flying in through the front door. Some people simply do not respond to diplomatic pressure.