Nobody much noticed, but we just had a new Cuban Missile Crisis. Remember the last one? The Soviets tried to place missiles in Cuba and we interdicted the Russian ships. For a moment it looked like WWIII but then Khrushchev backed down and the Soviet ships returned home. When he heard this, Robert Kennedy turned to his brother and said, “We were eyeball to eyeball, and they blinked.”
A smaller version of the same thing happened yesterday. Briefly, Obama told the Iranians they could build medium-range missiles that could attack Israel. You heard that right. We abandoned our ally and made common cause with our enemy. But the Iranians weren’t supposed to build long-range missiles that are capable of attacking Europe. Problem is, that’s just what they’re doing. They’re phasing out their medium-range missiles and concentrating on long-range ones. Many think they want to develop intercontinental missiles that could reach us.
They were prepared to go public with this next Saturday, their “Revolution Day,” which celebrates the Ayatollah Khomeini’s ascension to power in 1979. It’s a day when the country’s leaders condemn the U.S., and Revolutionary Guards march through the streets. This time we were expecting to see them parade a long-range missile, the way the Soviets used to do on May Day. In preparation, satellite photos revealed that yesterday they were going to launch a missile from the Khomeini Space Center in Semnan, Iran.
And then… nothing. New satellite photos taken yesterday morning showed that the launch had been abandoned. At the same time, the Iranians have softened their language about the U.S., according to the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI). Instead of fulminating about the “Great Satan,” Supreme Leader Khamenei now merely whines about how naughty we are, while the social media chit-chat from the Revolutionary Guards talks of toning down the message in recognition of the Americans who oppose Trump. (Hey, Lena Dunham, a nation turns its grateful eyes to you!)
So what happened? Very simple. NSC Director Mike Flynn told the Iranians that we were putting them on notice and they backed down. We were eyeball to eyeball and they blinked.
We’re always going to have to watch them, and something more will be required when we see a long-range missile launched. But at the moment it’s good to know that there’s a new sheriff in town.