Following up on Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s bellicose threats toward Iran, Pentagon officials suggested that moving against Iran would require a “whole government solution.” They pointed toward the Pentagon being more aggressive toward Iran in the future.
While officials were not specific about what the Pentagon would or even might do, they condemned Iran’s “malign influence” in the region. Some talked up freedom of navigation operations, which has long been a favored way for the US Navy to pick fights or escalate tensions with rivals.
Purely theoretically, the freedom of navigation exercise is just meant to prove that ships can safely transit certain waters. Though Iran has never impeded anyone’s ships passing around their sphere of influence, the US Navy has favored parking ships along Iran’s maritime borders, and occasionally hugging that border.
Even before the US started this post-nuclear deal desire to pick a fight with Iran, such exercises were common. Often, this boiled down to US warships hugging the Iranian coast until Iranian patrol boats made visual contact. Following that, US officials would condemn Iran as “provocative” for having those boats patrolling their own territorial waters, or “reckless” for getting even a little close to US warships.
Beyond maritime incidents, the comments from the State Department suggest the general preference of the administration is to provoke something inside Syria. A substantial number of US troops are stationed in Syria, and while very few Iranians are there, the US and Israel have often spun every Shi’ite militia as effectively “under Iranian control.”