US-Iran Standoff

Trump traps himself in his own rhetoric
Empowering Weak & Oppressed

Zafar Bangash

Shawwal 27, 1440 2019-07-01

Main Stories

by Zafar Bangash (Main Stories, Crescent International Vol. 48, No. 5, Shawwal, 1440)

Wars are no trifle matter; they are extremely destructive and cause a lot of deaths. They are easy to start but difficult to end. Equally critical, their outcomes are unpredictable, as any general who has participated in a war would confirm.

The world has witnessed this madness for decades, pursued unilaterally by the war dogs in Washington. The latest example of this was the US aggression against the Islamic Republic of Iran on June 20. It deliberately sent a spy drone into Iranian airspace. Despite repeated warnings from Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) aerospace division, American operators of the spy plane refused to take heed. The IRGC brought it down at 04:05am over Iranian airspace. Another surveillance plane, the P-8 with 35 people on board accompanying the drone was spared.

The Americans immediately resorted to lies. They claimed that the drone was flying over international waters. On June 21, Iran put on display the plane’s debris it had collected in its territorial waters. At first, the US navy said it had collected the plane’s debris but later changed its story saying because of “high winds and strong current” it was unable to do so! Iran also provided the plane’s coordinates: 8 km from Iran’s coastline and well within Iran’s territorial waters of 12 nautical miles.

There were other lies that the Americans peddled. They alleged that President Donald Trump had ordered air strikes against three Iranian targets but rescinded the order when his generals told him of the number of casualties (150 deaths) they would cause. Trump’s concern for Iranian casualties would be touching, if it were true. Since when has any US official ever cared about people’s lives in other countries? Their graveyards are full of civilians murdered by America’s mad dog bombers.

Second, it was alleged that Trump had sent a message to Tehran via Oman offering to hold talks but he gave a short deadline. On June 22, Iran’s Supreme National Security Council (SNSC) spokesperson Kei-van Khosravi rubbished this claim telling the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) no US message had been received. An attempt was made to lend credibility to this lie by claiming that the British news agency, Reuters, had spoken to “unnamed Iranian officials” who had “confirmed” receipt of the message. When news outlets resort to taking cover behind “unnamed sources,” one can be certain that this is an attempt to peddle a lie to advance a certain narrative!

What the latest attempted aggression against Iran shows is that the US, led by gangsters and outlaws, is a rogue regime. Nothing would be achieved by talking to such criminally dishonest people. If Trump can walk away from a multilateral, internationally endorsed agreement, how can Iran accept a bilateral agreement with Trump?

He harbors the illusion that he can shoot his way to the negotiating table with Iran. The US is already at war with Iran and has been for 40 years since the victory of the Islamic Revolution. The latest salvo in this ongoing war was fired in May 2018 when Trump unilaterally withdrew from the multilateral agreement on Iran’s nuclear program. He then re-imposed a raft of illegal sanctions that were lifted as part of the 2015 agreement in return for Iran capping its uranium enrichment. Tehran also accepted intrusive inspections of its nuclear facilities.

Called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), it was ratified by UN Security Council resolution 2231 (July 20, 2015). The JCPOA was concluded after years of intense negotiations involving Iran and six other countries: the UK, France, Russia, China, the US and Germany plus the European Union.

By walking away from the multilateral deal Trump said he wanted to negotiate Iran’s missile program as well as its support of what he termed “terrorist groups” in the region. By this he means Iran’s support for Hizbullah in Lebanon, Hamas and Islamic Jihad in Palestine and the Ansarallah fighters in Yemen. These movements are struggling for their rights and dignity against foreign invaders, aggressors, and occupiers.

File photograph of a US Navy RQ-4A Global Hawk surveillance drone. Something similar to this was shot down by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps for violating Iranian airspace. The cost of the drone, which was so cavalierly deployed over Iranian airspace in order to spark a provocation to go to war against the Islamic Republic, to the US taxpayer is somewhere between $110–220 million depending on the type of spy equipment and cameras on board. Trump’s Republican Party hacks are the ones who always harp on fiscal responsibility and how the federal budget doesn’t have several millions to pay for social welfare programs, yet they don’t think twice when it comes to spending trillions for making war and lavishing billions on defense contractors like Northrop-Grumman (who manufactures this drone). Taking off from a US airbase in the UAE, the drone was flying at some 60,000 ft with its transponder off, in violation of international aviation conventions of which the US is a signatory; a universal signal for suspecting untoward activity is an unidentified flying vehicle with its transponder disengaged.

Iran has consistently dismissed Trump’s demands to open negotiations on any of these issues that were not part of the nuclear deal. Besides, Tehran will never accept any limitations on its defensive capabilities, especially from a regime that possesses thousands of nuclear weapons, has used them twice on Japan and in the words of former US President Jimmy Carter, has been at war for all of its 242-year history except 17 years. Iran, on the other hand, has not attacked any country in the last 250 years.

American rulers, however, are not rational beings. They claim US exceptionalism. Thus, Trump has intensified pressure by re-imposing sanctions on Iran and threatening countries that buy its oil or participate in banking transactions or trade with it in any way. Most countries, especially the Europeans, while claiming to uphold the nuclear deal, have withdrawn from normal commercial dealings with Iran. They have advanced the ludicrous excuse that their companies are acting “independently” and trying to protect their interests.

Despite US withdrawal, Iran strictly adhered to its side of the bargain for more than a year in hopes that the Europeans would come up with a mechanism to mitigate the negative effects of US sanctions. Apart from empty promises, the Europeans have done nothing. Frustrated by Europe’s foot-dragging, Tehran announced in May that it would lift some of the limits on uranium enrichment since the other signatories have failed to uphold their side of the bargain. It still gave a 60-day notice (due to end on July 8) for European countries to come up with a solution to the negative effects of Washington’s unilateral and illegal sanctions.

No doubt US sanctions have hurt Iran, especially its people since its oil exports have been badly affected. This is what several Iranian officials have called “economic terrorism.” There is no other way to describe it. Trump’s stated purpose is to economically strangle Iran and force it to the negotiating table.

This is the new war tactic as outlined by Colonel (retired) Max Manwaring, professor (emeritus) of Strategic Studies at the US Army War College in Pennsylvania and a leading US military strategist. He has dubbed it fourth and fifth generation warfare. His fundamental thesis is that based on US experience in Afghanistan and Iraq, it is no longer necessary to wage direct war with any country. Strangle a target country’s economy through sanctions, create internal unrest to force people to stage an uprising against the government to overthrow it, and install people in power who would do America’s bidding.

This strategy was successful in a number of countries but faced its first major failure in Syria, thanks largely to the support provided by Hizbullah, Iran, and Russia. The war on Syria was meant to secure Zionist Israel’s preeminence in the region. Its ultimate objective was to destroy Iran’s Islamic government.

The leadership in Iran has made clear that they would not remain idle in the face of US aggression. If attacked by any country, they would retaliate with full force. Such retaliation would not be limited to one country: Saudi and Emirati oil fields would go up in smoke. US and Zionist assets in the region will also face Iran’s military might. Tehran has many options and allies and its forces are absolutely capable of achieving these objectives.

More critically, Iran will not allow itself to be strangled economically. Iranian leaders have repeatedly stressed that if they cannot export oil nobody else would either. Iran controls the narrow Strait of Hormuz.

Let us look at this scenario in some detail. At its narrowest, the Strait of Hormuz is 21 nautical miles. Since Iran claims 12 nautical miles as its territorial waters and Oman also claims 12 nautical miles, it means at its narrowest point, this is not “international water.” Thus any shipping vessels — oil tankers or military — will have to seek Iran’s permission to use the waterway.

Islamic Iran’s strategic advantage: in case it is attacked, it can choke off the Strait of Hormuz within literally minutes, halting 35% of the world’s oil supply, thereby leading to a global economic meltdown.

Iran can simply declare the Persian Gulf a war zone and block passage to all ships. The immediate result would be insurance for tankers going through the roof. To reinforce the message, a couple of cargo ships can also be sunk in the waterway.

Since 30% of the world’s oil passes through the Strait of Hormuz, its closure would result in oil prices hitting $200 or more per barrel. Some have even speculated $1,000/barrel (Goldman Sachs, as per Pepe Escobar writing in Strategic Culture (June 20, 2019)). According to this well-informed analyst, “As I previously reported, shutting down the Strait of Hormuz would destroy the American economy by detonating the $1.2 quadrillion derivatives market; and that would collapse the world banking system, crushing the world’s $80 trillion GDP and causing an unprecedented depression.”

And if a shooting war were to start, the twin apartheid regimes in the region — Zionist Israel and their Wahhabi cousins in Arabia — would also be consigned to the dustbin of history. Both the Zionists and the Wahhabis know this. Muhammad bin Salman, the idiotic clown prince of Saudi Arabia even offered to pay for America’s war on Iran. American generals seem to have more sense than starting a shooting war with Iran. They cannot rescue their troops from the ragtag bands of Taliban fighters in Afghanistan, what chance would they have against the highly motivated Revolutionary Guards and Basij fighters?

Iran would simply not allow itself to be strangulated. Presidential elections in the US are due next year. The eruption of any shooting war would blow up whatever little chance Trump may have of re-election. The barking war dogs around him — Mike Pompeo and John Bolton — have gotten louder in frustration.

But if Trump wants to have even a remote chance of re-election, he should quarantine these mad dogs and abandon the failed policy of sanctions and threats against Iran. He should accept the JCPOA and fulfill America’s obligations under it. He should immediately lift the illegal sanctions against Iran and return to normal conduct, difficult as it may be for the ill-mannered Trump.

Washington’s mad dogs of global war have trapped him in a corner. Iran will not rescue him; he must find a way out.

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