The Very Definition of Blowing Smoke, Tehran Edition

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Iran is warning the U.S. not to return an aircraft carrier to the Gulf:

TEHRAN Jan 3 (Reuters) - Iran will take action if a U.S. aircraft carrier which left the area because of Iranian naval exercises returns to the Gulf, the state news agency quoted army chief Ataollah Salehi as saying on Tuesday.

"Iran will not repeat its warning ... the enemy's carrier has been moved to the Sea of Oman because of our drill. I recommend and emphasise to the American carrier not to return to the Persian Gulf," Salehi told IRNA.

"I advise, recommend and warn them (the Americans) over the return of this carrier to the Persian Gulf because we are not in the habit of warning more than once," the semi-official Fars news agency quoted Salehi as saying.

One of the reasons I lean against the use of force against Iran over its nuclear program is that I think the regime in Tehran is more interested in self-preservation than some people think. Therefore, it seems highly unlikely that the Iranians would make threatening gestures at a U.S. aircraft carrier group simply because it entered the Gulf. That would just be batshit-crazy. There is, of course, a theory out there that the Iranians, for domestic reasons, are trying to provoke an Israeli, or an American attack. But until proven otherwise, I'm going to believe that these bellicose statements represent empty threats.

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Jeffrey Goldberg is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and a recipient of the National Magazine Award for Reporting. He is the author of Prisoners: A Story of Friendship and Terror. More

Before joining The Atlantic in 2007, Goldberg was a Middle East correspondent, and the Washington correspondent, for The New Yorker. He was previouslly a correspondent for The New York Times Magazine and New York magazine. He has also written for the Jewish Daily Forward and was a columnist for The Jerusalem Post.

Goldberg's book Prisoners was hailed as one of the best books of 2006 by the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Slate, The Progressive, Washingtonian magazine, and Playboy. He received the 2003 National Magazine Award for Reporting for his coverage of Islamic terrorism and the 2005 Anti-Defamation League Daniel Pearl Prize. He is also the winner of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists prize for best international investigative journalist; the Overseas Press Club award for best human-rights reporting; and the Abraham Cahan Prize in Journalism.

In 2001, Goldberg was appointed the Syrkin Fellow in Letters of the Jerusalem Foundation, and in 2002 he became a public-policy scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C.

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