While the United States and European Union officials now actively seek a negotiated end to disputes over Iran’s nuclear program, the White House and State Department have acknowledged that military force might be a last resort, should diplomacy not pan out. The idea that the threat of military force might augment willingness to negotiate has been a basis of strategy across administrations, even if often unstated so bluntly.
If an Iranian Ground Force commander is to be believed, however, Iranian authorities might not be willing to make the same assumptions with regard to American military power. In recent years, Iran has actively built both its defensive and offensive capabilities. Rather than acknowledge a conscious desire on the part of the United States and European Union to negotiate, Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps personnel seem to conclude that Iran’s growing military capabilities have already deterred Western attacks on Iran.
If the Revolutionary Guards truly believe their bluster, then the Iranian government might not feel the same pressure to negotiate as sincerely as many Western officials hope. At the same time, Ground Force Commander Abdollah Araqi’s threat to act asymmetrically against the United States in the manner of the Iran-Iraq War experience suggests that the Islamic Republic still considers tanker warfare and suicide attacks fair game. Iranian politicians might project a new face, but for the Revolutionary Guards it is business as usual.