Why the risks of war with Iran are real

Neither the United States nor Iran really wants war, we are told, because the reality of such a conflict is too horrific to contemplate. But the Gulf tanker crisis and the US response shows that we are alarmingly close to open hostilities.

It is true that there are voices in the US defence establishment calling for restraint. It appears to be the case, too, that the Iranian government is operating on the assumption that the US does not want a war. But there are several reasons why such assumptions are not a sound basis for judgement.

First, some do want military action against Iran. And they really are not marginal players. They include the US’s two main allies in the Middle East and the two most senior foreign policy officials in the US government. The governments of Saudi Arabia and Israel have been putting a strong case for action against Iran for some years. The US and its Western allies are closer to these countries’ governments than they have ever been.

John Bolton, who as National Security Advisor is the last man in any meeting with the President, is famously an advocate of war against the Islamic Republic.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is equally hawkish. As a Republican Tea Party member of Congress from 2011 to 2017, Pompeo regularly called for regime change in Iran. In 2014, he demanded the Barack Obama administration break off the talks that led to the Iran nuclear deal. He even called for launching airstrikes, saying fewer than 2000 bombing sorties could take out Iran’s nuclear capabilities.

No surprises, then, that Pompeo’s response to the attacks on tankers in the Gulf has been to insist, without credible evidence, that Iran is responsible and throw in a highly questionable list of alleged recent Iranian atrocities for good measure.

On top of the latest round of tanker attacks, these include an assault on the Green Zone in Baghdad not previously linked to Iran and a bombing in Afghanistan that has actually been claimed by the Taliban. Listening to his statement, it was hard not to be reminded of the adrenaline-pumped pronouncements in the run up to war in Iraq.

Read the article by Chris Nineham in Green Left Weekly.