By now, Trump may have realized that he’s in a no-win situation with Iran. From Tom Luongo at strategic-culture.org:
After President Trump decided not to launch an air strike against Iran in response to Iran shooting down a Global Hawk surveillance drone, the big question was, “Okay, now what?”
My initial thoughts on this centered on Russia. And Russia’s affirmation of its relationship with Iran saw Trump begin a pivot towards a different strategy than one of direct confrontation.
He went to North Korea after the G-20 in Osaka, meeting with DPRK Leader Kim Jong-Un to advance his relationship there.
He’s mostly kept his mouth shut on Iran other than a little obvious Twitter-rattling about ‘annihilation’ if Iran attacks any U.S. asset.
So, it seems that Trump himself is ready to alter the trajectory of his foreign policy. The problem is, as has been pointed out repeatedly, these actions have empowered all manner of other actors to commit provocations which Trump will have to respond to at some point.
Case in point the seized oil Iranian oil tanker by British marines at Gibraltar. This is purely outrageous behavior. And the details of the seizure itself are highly suspect. Claims that the tanker was headed for a Syrian port which can’t even berth a tanker of that size are a dead giveaway.
And then there’s the planted story about Iran ‘attack boats’ trying to seize a British tanker in retaliation.
If the US sticks enough boats in the Persian Gulf, it may get the war John Bolton, Mike Pompeo, and Benjamin Netanyahu so desperately want. From the editorial board at strategic-culture.org:
America’s top General Joseph Dunford this week announced plans for a US-led naval coalition to patrol the Persian Gulf in order to “protect shipping” from alleged Iranian sabotage.
The move is but the latest in a series of efforts by the Trump administration to mobilize Arab allies into a more aggressive military stance towards Iran. It follows recent visits to the region by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Adviser John Bolton, both of whom have been urging a more organized military front led by the US to confront Iran.
The latest naval coalition proposed by General Dunford will be charged with escorting oil tankers as they pass through the Strait of Hormuz exiting the Persian Gulf to the Indian Ocean, and also through the Bab al Mandab entrance to the Red Sea on the Western side of the Arabian Peninsula. The former conduit serves oil supply to Asia, while the latter position between Yemen and Eritrea leads shipping to the Suez Canal on the way to the Mediterranean and Europe. Both narrow sea passages are strategic chokepoints in global oil trade, with some 20-30 per cent of all daily shipped crude passing through them.
The apparently chivalrous motives of the US to “guarantee freedom of navigation” sounds suspiciously like a pretext for Washington to assert crucial military control over international oil trade. That is one paramount reason for objecting to this American proposal.
Secondly, the very idea of sending more military vessels to the Persian Gulf under Pentagon command at this time of incendiary tensions between the US and Iran is a reckless provocation too far.
Armed Iranian boats unsuccessfully tried to seize a British oil tanker in the Persian Gulf Wednesday, according to two US officials with direct knowledge of the incident.The British Heritage tanker was sailing out of the Persian Gulf and was crossing into the Strait of Hormuz area when it was approached by boats from the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.
The Iranians ordered the tanker to change course and stop in nearby Iranian territorial waters, according to the officials.
A British warship prevented an apparent attempt by five Iranian small boats to direct a British oil tanker towards Iranian waters on Wednesday, according to two U.S. officials.
Remarkably the official British report came later than the U.S. officials briefing. It showed significant differences:
The UK defence ministry said that “three Iranian vessels attempted to impede the passage of a commercial vessel, British Heritage, through the Strait of Hormuz.””HMS Montrose was forced to position herself between the Iranian vessels and British Heritage and issue verbal warnings to the Iranian vessels, which then turned away,” the ministry statement said.
“There has been no confrontation in the last 24 hours with any foreign vessels, including British ones,” the Revolutionary Guards said in a statement.
The U.S. officials claimed 5, not 3 boats. They claimed the boats tried to seize the ship, while the Brits just say they probably were getting in the way of the ship. The U.S. officials ‘direct knowledge of the incident’ seems to be lacking. Iran says that nothing happened at all.
There are reasons to believe that the Iranian statement is the most truthful one.
The trick is always to make it look like the other side started the war. From Moon of Alabama at moonofalabama.org:
Today a manned U.S. reconnaissance plane entered Iranian airspace in a clear attempt to provoke Iran into shooting it down. Such an incident would have created an occasion for Trump to give the American people a special 4th of July fireworks.
On July 3 1988 the guided missile cruiser USS Vincennes shot down the civil Iranian Flight 655 with 290 people on board. The U.S. claimed that the plane’s transponder was signaling an Iranian military identification code, that it was seemingly attacking the Vincennes, that the ship warned the plane 12 times, and that the ship was in international waters when the incident happened.
The crew of the Vincennes received medals for killing the Iranian civilians.
Investigations showed (pdf) that all the above claims were false. The shoot down was intentional. Iran sued the US in the International Court of Justice (ICJ) over it. The case was settled in 1996 when the U.S. agreed to apologize and to pay $61.8 million to the families of the victims.
On June 20 a large U.S. reconnaissance drone, accompanied by a manned U.S. military airplane, flew into Iranian air space east of the Strait of Hormuz. Iran shot the drone down. The U.S. threatened to strike Iran over the incident but Trump did not follow through.
There were reports that some people in the White House doubted that the U.S. Central Command, the U.S. military command for the Middle East, told it the full truth about the incident. Two days before the drone incident happened Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, the former CIA director, had unusual talks with the U.S. Central Command. This led to speculations that the incident was designed to provoke Iran into a shoot down and to push Trump into a war on Iran.
The case today is not in doubt. The U.S. military definitely tried to provoke Iran into shooting down another one of its planes.
The Iranians may inflict a lot of pain on world oil markets before they negotiate with Trump, if they ever negotiate with Trump. From Elijah J. Magnier at ejmagnier.com:
Japanese Prime Minister Abe Shinzo conveyed a message from US President Donald Trump to the Iranian leadership, asking the release of 5 US prisoners and inviting Iran to sit around a negotiation table, adding “he [Donald Trump] would be ready to suspend all sanctions only during the negotiations”. No guarantee was offered to freeze or revoke the sanctions. Sayyed Ali Khamenei, the Leader of the revolution, rejected the message and any dialogue with the US President and told his guest that he considers Trump unworthy to “to exchange a message with”.
Informed sources close to Iranian decision makers repeated the words of President Hassan Rouhani and the Iranian advisor to Sayyed Khamenei for international affairs, Ali Akbar Velayati, namely that “if Iran can’t export oil through the Persian Gulf, no-one in the Middle East will be able do this”. The source “expects further attacks in the future, given the US decision to stop the flow of oil by all means at all costs. Thus, oil will stop being delivered to the world if Iran can’t export its two million barrels per day”.
Two tankers – Kokuka Courageous and Font Altair – were attacked in the Gulf of Oman on Thursday, putting at risk the supply of oil to the West and making oil tanker navigation in the Middle East very unsafe. “One more attack and insurance companies are expected to increase their fees. More attacks and no insurance company will agree to cover any oil tanker navigating in Gulf waters, putting Iran and other oil-exporters at the same level. Moreover, let us see what justifications Trump and Europe will offer their people when the price of oil becomes unaffordable”, said the source.
“Tensions in the Gulf can be eased only when sanctions are lifted on Iran. Otherwise, more objectives may be targeted and the level of tension will gradually increase. The US is selling weapons which are inadequate to protect oil tankers or to protect oil pipelines delivering oil to harbours. If Iran is in pain, the rest of the world will suffer equally,” said the source.
“The selling of oil was compared to a horde of wolves hunting together: when one is unable to hunt, others replace him. When Iran was under sanctions unable to sell its crude oil production daily, Saudi Arabia and Russia replaced Iran and increased their production and delivery. This is why Sayyed Ali Khamenei told the Iranian leadership to no longer consider any country as a durable friend and ally.”
Today, the Gulf of Oman has become the operational stage to attack oil tankers. The oil tankers suffered multiple attacks. Had the attackers aimed to sink the oil tankers, this would have created an ecological disaster in the Gulf of Oman and the Indian Ocean. Iran wants everybody to sit around the negotiation table, including the Gulf countries, but only once the sanctions are lifted.
“President Trump is betting on maintaining the status-quo. This doesn’t suit Iran, because its economy will suffer dearly. Binding the deep economic wound and holding on until Trump ends his first mandate is playing into Trump’s hand and this is not going to happen. The tension in the Gulf was generated when Trump decided to pull out of the nuclear deal (known as the JCPOA). Let him pay the price now. If Iran cannot export its crude oil it means the country must be ready for war”, continue the source.
Russia advised Iran to remain within the JCPOA and Iran promised to withdraw only gradually. The Iranian leadership believes Trump would like to see Iran pull out completely from the nuclear deal so he can accuse Tehran of moving towards a nuclear bomb.
It is a real war that is unfolding in the Middle East today, a war where oil tankers and oil delivery to the world (30% of world oil supply goes through the Gulf) are the targets. President Trump and his Middle Eastern allies will have to bear the responsibility of the losses and the increase in the oil price worldwide due to attacks on oil tankers that are not likely to stop even in the face of US threats.
If Iran considers the sanctions detrimental to the survival of its population in the medium term, it means Iran is ready to go to war and accept the consequences. It is not possible to threaten a country that is already foundering economically. However, for Trump to lift sanctions would provide ammunition for the Democrats to attack Trump in his forthcoming campaign.
The other choice would be to lift sanctions and invite Iran to negotiate. And the last choice would be to challenge Iran, confront it and accept that the entire Middle East will go up in flames. After all, the Iranian leadership welcomed the US aircraft carrier coming to the Gulf and called it a “shooting gallery”. The ball is firmly in the US court.
President Trump may be the second president, after Jimmy Carter, to see his reelection hopes dashed by Iran. From Moon of Alabama at moonofalabama.org:
There is no evidence that Iran was behind Friday’s attack on tankers in the Gulf of Oman.
There are many parties in the Middle East and in the United States who are interested in goading the U.S. into a military confrontation with Iran. Most of these parties have the capability to launch clandestine attacks on civilian vessels. That the U.S. government would blame Iran for any such attack is obvious. But even Israeli analysts doubtthat Iran is responsible for the recent incidents. The German government doubts that video the U.S. presented shows anything of significance. Others point at the suspicious timing of the incident.
biggerIsrael is of course the foremost candidate for such a false flag attack. Prime Minister Netanyahoo agitated against Iran for the last 25 years. He multiple times threatened to directly attack the country but would prefer that the U.S. would do so. The Israeli clandestine service Mossad is capable of far reaching operations. Israel’s submarines are known to have operated in the Arab Sea.
The Saudis are under pressure from Houthi forces at their southern borders. The Houthi receive some material support from Iran. If the U.S. would attack Iran, the Saudis would be relieved. The Saudis need oil prices way above the current $60 per barrel to finance their state. Anything that drives up the price, like the tanker attacks, is obviously in their interest. The murder of Jamal Khashoggi in Turkey demonstrated that the Saudis developed extensive clandestine capabilities and have no qualms to use them.
Like a lot of fights the US picks, the blowback may be hell. From Tom Luongo at tomluongo.me:
An oil tanker is on fire in the sea of Oman, Thursday, June 13, 2019. Two oil tankers near the strategic Strait of Hormuz were reportedly attacked on Thursday, an assault that left one ablaze and adrift as sailors were evacuated from both vessels and the U.S. Navy rushed to assist amid heightened tensions between Washington and Tehran. (AP Photo/ISNA)
Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif has a term of endearment for Iran’s enemies, “The B-Team.”
The “B-Team” consists of U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton, Israeli Prime Minister (nee Dictator) Benjamin Netanyahu, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman and the UAE’s Mohammed bin Zayed.
When we look seriously at the attacks on the oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman this week the basic question that comes to mind is, Cui bono? Who benefits?
And it’s easy to see how the B-Team benefits from this attack and subsequent blaming Iran for it. With Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Tehran opening up a dialogue on behalf of U.S. President Donald Trump the threat of peace was in the air.
And none of the men on the B-Team profit from peace in the Middle East with respect to Iran. Getting Trump to stop hurling lightning bolts from the mountain top the B-Team guided him up would do nothing to help oil prices, which the Saudis and UAE need/want to remain high.
Bin Salman, in particular, cannot afford to see oil prices drop back into the $40’s per barrel. With the world awash in oil and supply tight, even with OPEC production cuts, Bin Salman is currently on very thin ice because of the Saudi Riyal’s peg to the U.S. dollar, which he can’t abandon or the U.S. will abandon them.
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