Acting out, Iran sentences former US Marine to death as a “spy”

Acting out, Iran sentences former US Marine to death as a “spy”

Posted on January 9th, 2012 in Blog, News, Services, Top Picks

Commentary by Diligent’s J. Michael Barrett:

Today’s news of the death sentence for a former U.S. Marine, Amir Mirzaei Hekmati, as a “spy” is yet another example of Iran’s clumsy way of sending the message that they are serious about the simmering conflict brewing between Iran and the West.  The 28-year-old former military translator was born in Arizona, and his troubles result from being but a pawn in the struggle for regional dominance.  Despite the personal tragedy of possible death following a dubious trial, at a global scale the heart of the matter is the same two-fold issue set we have seen and will continue to see for the foreseeable future:

– firstly, conflict with the West over Iran’s push to become regionally dominant (predominantly by acquiring a nuclear weapons capability), and

– secondly, the domestic Iranian need for the regime to appear strong for internal political reasons.  As history proves time and again the easiest path to achieving domestic support is often building up an external enemy and creating a sense among the people and, especially, the Iranian armed forces, that the current regime as standing up for the Iranian people against evil outsiders.

It is no exaggeration to say that practically anything that happens involving Iran for the next year or so is directly tied to this – from interfering in Iraq, sentencing ‘spies’ to death, threatening to cut off oil, and trips to Venezuela to feign a global alliance against the US and some sort of hemispheric threat to our interests.  At the same time, it seems likely it is no coincidence that being an Iranian nuclear scientist correlates very highly to untimely death in explosions, car accidents, and other means of an untimely demise.  This cat and mouse game is getting more serious as time – and their ability to make good on developing a nuclear weapon – drags on.

In short, with Saddam gone and chaos in Afghanistan and the results of the ‘Arab Spring’ change is coming to the balance of power in that region and Iran wants to come out ahead.  We don’t want that, and Israel feels it CANNOT accept that, which means conflict is brewing.  Going to get a lot more heated before one of three outcomes materializes:

1 – There is an internal revolt that changes the regime to more moderate (which is increasingly unlikely);

2 – The positive fruits of a political dialogue where Iran backs off its nuclear program and makes more peaceful overtures towards its neighbors (which is also unlikely in a region where force counts for more than words); or

3 –Open conflict with the West, led by the US.

Sadly, no one really wants the conflict, but the Iranians do want to assert more regional power and the US and its allies don’t want that to happen.  In so far as the tensions are useful to the Iranians that fact alone means a game of chicken involving entangled alliances, access to oil, and efforts at stopping them by various international entities.  However, divisions among the world’s powers about how to appropriately deal with the Iranians for destabilizing the system will almost surely continue to preclude a united front, especially if there comes a need for direct action to prevent Iranian nuclear proliferation.  World wars have certainly been started by less.