Is the end of empire nigh?

Gunboat diplomacy doesn’t work when the natives have anti-ship missiles:

A senior Iranian Revolutionary Guards commander warned on Sunday that the presence of a U.S. aircraft carrier in the Persian Gulf used to be a serious threat, but now represents a target, according to the Iranian Students’ News Agency.

The U.S. has sent forces, including an aircraft carrier and B-52 bombers, to the Middle East in a move that officials said was to counter ‘clear indications’ of threats from Iran to American forces in the region.

The USS Abraham Lincoln is replacing another carrier rotated out of the Gulf last month.

‘An aircraft carrier that has at least 40 to 50 planes on it and 6,000 forces gathered within it was a serious threat for us in the past but now it is a target and the threats have switched to opportunities,’ said Amirali Hajizadeh, head of the Guards’ aerospace division.

Now, it’s likely that Iran is just bluffing about its military capabilities, as Middle Eastern countries are wont to do. But it’s not certain, which is why it could be a catastrophic mistake for the US Navy to be playing old school intimidation games with its most powerful and most symbolic warships.

The problem is that while the Iranians probably have not developed a missile capable of sinking a carrier, the Russians and the Chinese probably have, and what better way to puncture the notion of US invulnerability than arranging for the sinking of a US aircraft carrier with plausible deniability.

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