By Barry Rubin

Following on the theme that the Muslim Brotherhood is a secular organization and that U.S. intelligence gets its breaking information from CNN, we have this remarkable statement in the State Department briefing by Assistant Secretary of State Philip Crowley:

“I believe there are two Iranian warships or, I mean, I don’t know what kind of ships they are. There are two ships in the Red Sea. What their intention is, what their destination is,
I don’t – I can’t say. Look, there are reports that there are a couple of ships in the Red Sea.
What they do, where they go, we’ll follow this with some curiosity.”

Curiosity indeed! Here’s what appeared on my blog four days before this press briefing:

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“Two Islamic Republic of Iran warships just visited the Saudi port of Jeddah in the Red Sea. No, that wasn’t a misprint, I said “Red Sea,” and not “Persian Gulf.” This is the first time Iranian warships have been in the Red Sea, just down the coast from Israel and just across from Egypt.

“Not only is this a strategic alarm bell for the United States and Israel but also for the Saudis themselves. Bereft now of their last significant Arab ally and feeling unable to depend on the United States, the Saudis are facing their worst strategic situation since the 1950s at a time when Iran is spreading its influence and racing toward nuclear weapons.”

I’m sure you readers understand the strategic significance of this move by Iran to file a claim as the region’s leading power. Yet it was not the United States but Israel that told the Egyptian government (that is, the army) that letting these warships through the Suez Canal would be deemed to be an unfriendly act. The Egyptians refused passage. That’s the military government. What would an elected Egyptian government do a year from now?

So here we have a major move by Iran that the United States ignores, not even understanding the significance of this flotilla. On the wider stage, the U.S. government is largely ignoring the advances of the Iran-Syria-Hamas-Hizballah-Turkish government-Lebanese government-Iraqi insurgent alliance.

Notice how the list of those on the other side keeps getting longer and the list of allies on the U.S. side in the Middle East keeps getting shorter. Perhaps the U.S. government will follow the loss of its whole position in the Middle East “with some curiosity.”

It is hard to believe the kinds of things being said by U.S. government officials nowadays. So much of it reads like satire. Of course, it is not only funny but scary. Very very scary. If the Obama Administration played the Ahmadinejad team in the international affairs Superbowl, I’d put my money on Iran by two touchdowns.

Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His latest books are Lebanon: Liberation, Conflict, and Crisis (Palgrave Macmillan), Conflict and Insurgency in the Contemporary Middle Eastand editor of the (seventh edition) (Viking-Penguin), The Israel-Arab Reader the paperback edition of The Truth About Syria(Palgrave-Macmillan), A Chronological History of Terrorism (Sharpe), and The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley).