COMMENTARY | Accompanied by blood curdling rhetoric, Iran is sending two ships of its navy, a destroyer and a cargo ship, across the North Atlantic and as close to the coast of the United States as possible. Or so it says, according to USA Today.
To be sure the move, should Iran actually succeed in doing it, would be largely symbolic. The two ships hardly constitute a threat to the United States and are not, so far as anyone knows, capable of striking at land targets. A couple of fighter jets could sink both ships in short order should they attempt anything hostile.
The announcement seems to be designed for Iranian public consumption. The United States Navy regularly patrols the waters near Iran’s coast, partly because a considerable amount of the world’s oil passed through it and partly because, despite recent moves by the Obama administration to appease the Islamic Republic, it remains an enemy country. Iran wants to demonstrate, at least rhetorically, that it can do the same to the United States.
Thus far, according to the Washington Free Beacon, there is little evidence that Iran’s little flotilla is actually on its way. Traversing thousands of miles across the chilly, stormy North Atlantic is a formidable task, even for navies that have experience doing so. Iran’s navy might be hard pressed to make good on its threat to part a couple of its ships – say – off New York harbor. It might even be prudent for the U.S. Navy to make contingency plans to rescue the Iranian sailors should they come to grief.
More ominously, though, is the fact that even by announcing the move Iran continues to demonstrate its hostility toward the United States, despite President Obama’s self evidence desire to achieve a rapprochement with the Islamic Republic. The current move may constitute no threat to the national security of the United States, but that might not always be the case.
One of the nightmare scenarios that some military planners wrestle with is the possibility of a freighter with a nuclear bomb detonating in an American harbor. If a freighter especially equipped with a nuclear tipped ballistic missile were to successfully launch it over the United States and detonate it, the resulting EMP pulse would take down the electric power grid for months, possibly years, crippling the United States. That makes this move of two tiny ships somewhat less of a joke than it seems.