[this analysis was written for the Unz Review]
An Iranian official has announced that the UK-flagged tanker Stena Impero was free to leave. Remember the Stena Impero? This is the tanker the IRGC arrested after the Empire committed an act of piracy on the high seas and seized the Iranian tanker Grace 1. Col Cassad posted a good summary of this info-battle, blow by blow (corrected machine translation):
- Britain, at the instigation of the US, seizes the Iranian tanker Grace 1 and demands from Iran guarantees that it in any case does not go to Syria.
- Iran, in response, captures the British tanker Stena Impero and says it will not retreat until the British releases Grace 1. British ships that guarded merchant ships in the Strait of Hormuz were warned that they would be destroyed if they interfered with the IRGC’s actions.
- After 2 months, Britain officially releases Grace 1, which is renamed Adrian Darya 1. It raised the Iranian flag and changed the crew.
- The British government says the tanker is released under Iran’s obligations not to unload the tanker at the Syrian port of Banias or anywhere else in Syria. Iran denies this.
- The US officially requires Britain and Gibraltar to arrest Adrian Darya 1 and not let him into Syria, as it violates the sanctions regime. Britain and Gibraltar refuse the US.
- Adrian Darya 1 reaches the coast of Syria and after a few days on the beam of Banias, unloads its cargo in Syria. The Iranian government says it has not made any commitments to anyone.
- After Adrian Darya 1 left Syria, Iran announced that it was ready to release the British tanker. The goal has been achieved.
This is truly an amazing series of steps, really!
The USA is the undisputed maritime hyper-power, not only because of its huge fleet, but because of its network of bases all over the planet (700-1000 depending on how you count) and, possibly even more importantly, a network of so-called “allies”, “friends”, “partners” and “willing coalition members” (aka de facto US colonies) worldwide. In comparison, Iran is a tiny dwarf, at least in maritime terms. But, as the US expression goes, “it’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog” which decides the outcome.
And then there is the (provisional) outcome of the Houthi strike on the Saudi oil installations. The Saudis appeared to be pushing for war against Iran, as did Pompeo, but Trump apparently decided otherwise:
Some have focused on the fact that Trump said that it was “easy” to attack Iran. Others have ridiculed Trump for his silly bragging about how US military gear would operate in spite of the dismal failure of both US cruise missile attacks (on Syria) and the Patriot SAMs (in the KSA). But all that bragging is simply obligatory verbal flag-waving; this is what the current political culture in the USA demands from all politicians. But I think that the key part of his comments is when he says that to simply attack would be “easy” (at least for him it would) but that this would not show strength. I also notice that Trump referred to those who predicted that he would start a war and said that they were wrong about him. Trump also acknowledged that a lot of people are happy that he does not strike (while others deplored that, of course, beginning with the entire US pseudo-liberal & pseudo-Left media and politicians). The one exception has been, again, Tulsi Gabbard who posted this after Trump declared that the US was “locked and loaded”:
Whatever may be the case, this time again, Trump seemed to have taken a last minute decision to scrap the attack the Neocons have been dreaming about for decades.
I think that I made my opinion about Trump pretty clear, yet I also have to repeat that all these “climbdowns” by Trump are, just by themselves, a good enough reason to justify a vote for Trump. Simply put; since Trump came to power we saw a lot of hubris, nonsense, ignorance and stupidity. But we did NOT see a war, especially not a major one. I will never be able to prove that, but I strongly believe that if Hillary had won, the Middle-East would have already exploded (most likely after a US attempt at imposing a no-fly zone over Syria).
We are also very lucky that, at least in this case, the rapid every four year Presidential election in the USA contributes to keep Trump (and his Neocon masters) in check: Trump probably figured out that a blockade of Venezuela or, even more so, a strike on Iran would severely compromise his chances of being re-elected, especially since neither theater offers the US any exit strategy.
Still, following these immensely embarrassing defeats, Trump and his advisors had to come up with something “manly” (which they confuse with “macho”) and make some loud statements about sending more forces to the Persian Gulf and beefing up the Saudi air defenses. This will change nothing. Iran is already the most over-sanctioned country on the planet and we have seen what US air defense can, and cannot do. Truth be told, this is all about face-saving and I don’t mind any face-saving inanities as long as they make it possible to avoid a real shooting war.
Still, the closer we get to the next US election, the more Trump should not only carefully filter what he says, he would be well advised to give some clear and strict instructions to his entire Administration about what they can say and what they cannot say. Of course, in the case of a rabid megalomaniac like Pompeo, no such “talking points” will be enough: Trump needs to fire this psychopath ASAP and appoint a real diplomat as Secretary of State. After all, Pompeo belongs in the same padded room as Bolton.
Now if we look at the situation from the Iranian point of view, it is most interesting. First, for context, I recommend the recent articles posted by Iranian analysts on the blog, especially the following ones:
- “War Gaming the Persian Gulf Conflict” by Black Archer Williams
- “Karbala, The Path of Most Resistance” by Mansoureh Tadjik
- “Resistance report: Syrian Army takes the initiative in Idlib while Washington blames its failures on Iran again” by Aram Mirzaei
I also recommend my recent interview with Professor Marandi.
I recommend all these Iranian voices because they are so totally absent from the political discussions on the Middle-East, at least in western media. Williams, Tadjik, Mirzaei and Marandi are very different people, they also have different point of views and focuses of interest, but when you read them you realize how confident and determined Iranians are. I am in contact with Iranians abroad and in Iran and all of them, with no exception, share that calm determination. It seems that, just like Russians, Iranians most certainly don’t want war, but they are ready for it.
The Iranian preferred strategy is also clear: just the way Hezbollah keeps Israel in check so will the Houthis with the KSA. The Houthis, who are now in a very strong negotiation position, have offered to stop striking the KSA if the Saudis do likewise. Now, the Saudis, just like the Israelis, are too weak to accept any such offer, that is paradoxical but true: if the Saudis officially took the deal, that would “seal” their defeat in the eyes of their own public opinion. Having said that, I can’t believe that the Saudis believe their own propaganda about war against Iran. No matter how delusional and arrogant the Saudi leaders are, surely they must realize what a war against Iran would mean for the House of Saud (although when I read this I wonder)! It is one thing to murder defenseless Shias in the KSA, Bahrain or Yemen and quite another to take on “the country which trained Hezbollah”.
Speaking of delusional behavior, the Europeans finally did fall in line behind their AngloZionist overlords and agreed to blame Iran for the attack under what I call the “Skripal rules of evidence” aka “highly likely“. The more things change, the more they remain the same I suppose…
It is pretty clear that all the members of the Axis of Kindness (USA, KSA, Israel) are in deep trouble on the internal front: Trump is busy with the “Zelensky vs Biden” scandal, especially now since the Dems are opening impeachment procedures, the latest elections failed to deliver the result Bibi wanted, as for the Saudis, after pushing for war they now have to settle for more sanctions and radars, hardly a winning combination.
The Saudis are too weak, clueless and obese (physically and mentally) to get anything done by themselves. But the USA and Israel are now in a dire need to show some kind of “victory” over, well, somebody. Anybody will do. Thus the US have just denied visas 10 members of the Russian delegation to the United Nations (thereby violating yet another US obligation under international law, but nobody in the US cares about such minor trivialities as international law); and just to show how amazingly powerful the Empire is, the Iranian delegation to the UN received the same “punished bad boys” treatment: truly, a triumph worthy of a superpower! Last minute update: the US is now revoking Iranian student visas and denying entry to Venezuelan diplomats.
This “war of visas” is the US equivalent of the “war on statues” the Ukrainians, Balts and the Poles have been waging to try to distract their population from the comprador policies of their governments.
As for the Israelis, I now expect the Israelis to strike some empty building in Syria (or even in Gaza!).
Conclusion: facts don’t really matter anymore, and neither does logic
Ten years ago Chris Hedges wrote a book called “Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle ” and, a full decade later, this title is still an extremely accurate diagnostic. What Hedges politely called the “end of literacy” can be observed in all its facets, listening to US political and military leaders. While most of them are, indeed, morally bankrupt and even psychopaths, it is their level of ignorance and incompetence which is the most amazing. First, the Russians spoke of “non-agreement-capable” “partners” but eventually Putin quipped that it was hard to work with “people who confuse Austria and Australia“. This all, by the way, applies as much to the Obama Administration as it does to the Trump Administration: their common motto could have been “illusions über alles” or something similar. Once a political culture fully enters into the realm of illusions and delusions the end is near because no real-world problem ever gets tackled: it only gets obfuscated, denied and drowned into an ocean of triumphalist back-slapping and other forms of self-worship.
Post scriptum: the US goes crazy but Trump just might survive after all
So the Dems decided to try to impeach Trump. While I always expected the Neocons to treat Trump as the “disposable President” which they would try to use to do all the stuff they don’t want to be blamed for directly, and then toss him away once they squeezed him for everything he could give them, I am still appalled by the nerve, the arrogance and the total dishonesty of the Dems (see my rant here).
My gut feeling is that Trump just might beat this one for the very same reason he won the first time around: because the other side is even worse (except Tulsi Gabbard, of course).
Of course, an attack on Iran would be a welcome distraction à la “wag the dog” and Trump might be tempted. Hopefully, the Dems will self-destruct fast enough for Trump not to have to consider this.