Reports suggesting that Iran may be about to try to send warships through the Suez Canal to Syria have produced a predictable angry and threatening response from Israel. This is entirely what the Iranian regime is looking for - conflict with Israel which will distract from the protests in Iran.
The Iranian regime tried to claim that the revolts in Tunisia and Egypt were Islamist revolutions inspired by Irans own Islamist revolution but nothing could be further from the truth. The revolts started as protests against economic and social conditions but quickly morphed into wider demands for an end to autocracy and demands for democratic freedoms. The revolts had an Islamic flavour of course - that is to be expected and is not an unreasonable thing in countries which are essentially Islamic. But the slogans of the revolutions were not Islamist - people were not on the streets demanding that the dictatorship of Mubarak be replaced by a dictatorship of the Mullahs.
In a dictatorship as tightly controlled as Iran though the religiously minded autocrats thought that they could fool their own people by claiming that the Pan Arab revolutionary atmosphere supported their own Shia Islamist world view. The Iranian regime immediately started a campaign of misinformation and intimidation intended to frighten the pro-democracy movement in Iran from attempting anything similar to what as happened in Egypt.
The Iranian thugocracy has perhaps even less scruples than the Mubarak regime. They are likely to be less troubled by firing on their own citizens given their shameful record of executing dissidents.
There is a wind blowing in the Middle East though that can't be stopped. People clearly are fed up with autocracies of any form and they want the freedom to express their views and choose their own rulers. They want freedom from the threat of secret police and religious police.
The regime is showing signs that it is worried by the protests and there are calls for the leaders of the opposition movements to be executed. Protesters are being decried as agents of foreign powers and the media is under tight control with little access for foreign journalists. The Iranian regime is wheeling out all the same tired tactics that dictatorships do when their people revolt and cry "enough" !
Not only should we expect the Iranian regime to be more violent in its response but we should not be surprised when we hear them take actions which provoke conflict with Israel and the West. The regime will be desperate to create headlines for its people which give them something to rally around other than calls for proper democracy. It's in that context that Iran is now perhaps about to send ships through the Suez Canal.
The regime will figure that whatever the outcome it will gain. If Israel responds firmly and harshly then the regime will have a cause to rally the Iranian people. If Israel does not respond then Iran has shown that it can exert naval; power and influence in the Mediterranean right next door to Israel.