A mosquito came to the lion one day with a challenge. The mosquito said to the lion, "I am not afraid of you, for you are not stronger than me. You don't agree? Well, what kind of strength do you have? Claws to scratch with and teeth for biting? I am, in fact, far stronger than you. Let's go and fight it out. The mosquito sounded his trumpet and flew onto the lion's face, biting the lion around the nose where his face was not covered with hair. The lion could only wear himself out by scratching about with his claws in vain, until he finally admitted defeat.
This old fable is an apt allegory for the contest between Iran and the United States.
Iran's leaders see overwhelming force piling up around them but retain their arrogant pose of superiority. Three US aircraft carriers, the USS Stennis, the USS Carl Vinson, the USS Abraham Lincoln and their strike forces are cruising around their doorstep and thousands of US Marines are on their way to the Gulf region as reinforcements.
The Israeli Defense Forces – IDF is getting set to strike the Islamic Republic's nuclear program. Tuesday, Jan. 17, even the Israeli ex-Prime Minister Ehud Olmert added his voice to the advocates of military action by stating Israel has the resources and ability to go it alone.
Tehran also suspects a sting operation in the cancelling of the joint US-Israeli Austere Challenge 12 military exercise. The ten-day gap between the first joint communiqué of Jan. 5 on the landing of thousands of US troops and equipment for the exercise, and the announcement of its postponement, has led Iran's strategists to believe that no exercise was in fact planned. It was just a cover story to camouflage the concentration in Israel of US military assets for attacking Iran, either by America or Israel.
Tehran is not put off by US emphasis on Iranian weaknesses
This buildup was followed by a flood of Western accounts of Iran's weaknesses.
Tehran was depicted as isolated and plagued by factional infighting with its top figures, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, at daggers drawn. Iran's Islamic leaders were said to be more scared of the March elections to the Majlis than of an impending military confrontation, because they know that it will be much harder to fake the election results this time than it was in 2009.
Iranian military prowess is also derided. The important Saudi website Arabnews.com ran an analysis by a former Saudi naval officer who maintained that Iran does not have the warships, submarines, planes and pilots for closing the Strait of Hormuz, only old iron equipped with outdated electronics.
The Saudi officer wrote: "In the military sense, Iran could float empty barrels in the middle of the navigation channel and declare to the world that they are mines."
Instead of being downcast by the scorn heaped on their heads, Iran's leaders welcome it as bolstering their Mosquito-beats-the Lion stance, say DEBKA-Net-Weekly's Iranian sources, or what Western military experts refer to as "The Iranian Swarming Tactic."
Superior military prowess is not an issue because no Iranian war planner contemplates a large-scale naval battle No one in Tehran has any intention of pitting the Iranian fleet against US naval might for a major battle over the Strait of Hormuz. Even if a clash gets out of control, they don't intend sinking a US aircraft carrier for fear of bringing American nuclear fury down on their heads.
Pinpoint harassment against superior military might
What the war planners in Tehran are charting is a mosquito-like campaign of pinpoint harassment against superior military might: an electronic trap for downing another US drone like the RQ-170 stealth drone Iran captured on Dec. 4, 2011, or the launching of one of their thousands of speedboats manned by suicide bombers against a small US or Gulf emirate warship.
These speedboats are not berthed at Iranian Revolutionary Guards naval bases. Disguised as fishing boats they mingle with the packs of fishermen and smugglers frequenting the Persian Gulf, the Red Sea and the Horn of Africa, and are available at any moment to dart in for sudden strikes against warships or big oil tankers. The volunteer crews are willing to die in the fires they set if they cannot escape.
Iranian strategists are not overly scared of an American or Gulf Arab troops landing on their soil. They take it for granted that the any ground troops sent in by the US, Israel or an emirate will not seek to occupy Iranian territory. Even if battles ensue, Iran will hold the moral high ground of a defending power. Hitting an enemy aircraft or vessel can be magnified by its propagandists as a great Islamic Republican victory. Any fires set at its facilities will produce striking images to feed Iran's propaganda machine.
That machine is already ticking over. Official Iranian rhetoric has been impregnated in the past month with blowhard arrogance, fist-shaking and crude threats.
Iran gambles on the American lion having no answers for the Iranian mosquito
Turkish intelligence was frankly fed information about Al Qods Brigades cells heading for Turkey to attack the US embassy and consulates Tuesday, Jan. 17, the day before Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi arrived in Ankara for the third round of high-level Iranian-Turkish talks since Jan. 5.
His arrival coincided with a harsh warning to Ankara to stop meddling in Syria in the Iranian Revolutionary Guards weekly Sobh'eh Sadeqh.
The paper accused Turkish troops of crossing into Syria as part of a Western campaign to destabilize the regime of President Bashar Assad: "Should Turkish officials insist on their contrary behavior and if they continue on their current path, serious issues are sure to follow. We will be put in the position of having to choose between Turkey and Syria. Syria's justification in defending herself along with mirroring ideological perceptions would sway Iran toward choosing Syria."
Tehran is setting the Syrian scene, therefore, for an Iranian-Turkish clash of arms.
The higher the flames of confrontation, the more profit Iranian leaders bargain for. They are gambling on the American lion failing to come up with an answer for the tactics of the Iranian mosquito.