The Persian game

“Masters of ambiguity, Iran’s leaders don’t want war with Israel and the U.S. — and are more alarmed by the Lebanese crisis than the West realizes.”

Afshin Molavi in Salon:

Story_3On the sidelines of a recent security conference in Oman, a former high-ranking Iranian official turned to a Saudi colleague and said: “You are overestimating our influence in Iraq. We are not as powerful as you think.” A few moments later, the Iranian smiled and added, “But don’t underestimate our influence, either.”

Such calculated ambiguity has become a familiar feature of Iranian foreign policy, particularly regarding its role in Iraq, its nuclear stance and, of course, its support for Hamas and Hezbollah. Sometimes the ambiguity approaches something resembling sophisticated statecraft; at other times it looks amateurish, like “bazaar diplomacy.”

Amid the ongoing Hezbollah-Israel war, the ambiguity has been on full display: Iran, on the one hand, denies accusations that it is playing a role in the conflict, while secretly pledging financial and military support for Hezbollah and publicly declaring the Jewish state unsafe from Hezbollah rockets.

More here.  [Thanks to Zara Houshmand.]