(Reposted without permission).
Assume that the administration has, or at least originally had, no ambitions for regime change in Teheran, but merely wants to keep them from meddling in Iraq and to discourage their pursuit of nuclear weapons. What Teheran hears, however, in view of the occupation of Iraq and the general bellicosity of the Bush administration, is You're next, you fucking rug-beaters. So they respond with threats of their own, such as the naval exercises you correctly say are intended to suggest that they are capable of closing the Gulf. Intended only to deter the Americans from doing anything rash, Iranian threats become grist for the mills of U.S. advocates of military action against Iran, who win some small or large step forward in preparations, which in turn signify additional threat to the other side. In this manner the course of events builds up a great deal of dry tinder just waiting for a spark to set it ablaze.Posted by Gregor_Samsa. To reply to this post, click HERE.
In particular, you should remember that when "nations" act, the real decisions are usually being made by several individuals or groups within the nation, often in competition (or worse) with one another. Therefore, they frequently send signals that seem inconsistent. Something like this happened at the end of the Pacific War, when the Japanese government made inconsistent statements about its willingness to consider surrender, because the Foreign Office and the Army were in violent disagreement. The lack of clarity cost two cities their very lives. Observers of Iran say that Tehran is especially subject to such schizophrenia.