(TMU Op-Ed) — While Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was quick to rush to the conclusion that Iran was the key actor behind alleged attacks on oil tankers in one of the world’s most strategically important oil routes—the Strait of Hormuz—the world has grown increasingly weary of the tall tales spun from Washington in its pursuit of conflict in the Middle East.
Indeed, many figures across the globe have greeted the accusations with extreme skepticism, largely agreeing with Tehran’s argument that the U.S. is solely interested in promoting an “Iranophobic” campaign on a potential path to war.
Even the Japanese owner of one of the attacked tankers, the Kokuka Sangyo Company, has insisted that no possibility exists that a torpedo was fired at the ship, which contained 25,000 tons of methanol headed to Japan.
Kokuka Sangyo Co. president Yutaka Katada told a news conference Friday:
“The crew told us something came flying at the ship, and they found a hole. Then some crew witnessed the second shot.”
The skepticism has extended to Europe. On Monday, a meeting of 28 European Union foreign ministers vocally called for an independent United Nations investigation of the attack on two Gulf tankers, with the U.K. largely isolated in its lonesome support of the Trump administration’s certainty that the attacks were carried out by Iran.
Jean Asselborn, Luxembourg’s foreign minister, said:
“I believe that the main task of foreign ministers is to avoid war. We have to do that today.”
Heiko Maas, the German foreign minister, also stressed that despite the certainty of U.S. and U.K. intelligence agencies, Germany would continue “comparing this with our information.” Maas added that “you have to proceed very, very carefully on this.”
Indeed, no hard proof that Iran was behind the attacks has yet emerged, although Washington has released a video claiming to show an Iranian patrol boat removing an unexploded mine from the side of a tanker.
Yet the video, if it is to be accepted as clear proof of an Iranian hand in the attacks, raises questions as to why Tehran would pull such a daring maneuver prior to trying to remove the evidence of their role in the attacks, all in broad daylight.
Writing for Eurasia Review, Iranian-American author Kaveh L. Afrasiabi commented:
“In a word, it simply makes no sense, except from the prism of the U.S. seeking to incriminate Iran at any cost, as part of a step-by-step strategy of increasing escalations with Iran.
Clearly, the U.S. wants to have it both ways, portray the ‘rogue’ Iranians as capable of considerable mischief with a high degree of professional sophistication and, simultaneously, as highly amateurish. This schizoid image of Iran serves U.S. interest in smearing Iran and thus laying the groundwork for another Iraq-like war scenario based on false pretexts.”
Along with the U.K., Iran’s major regional foes—the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia—have been the most vocal players attempting to escalate the crisis in hopes to further isolate the Islamic Republic.
On Sunday, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman further called for the world to take a “decisive stand” over the attacks while claiming the kingdom doesn’t seek war in the region. Yet MbS, as he is known, is seen across the globe as a highly dubious figure, especially in the aftermath of the grisly abduction and murder of Jamal Khashoggi and the bloody war on Yemen.
The broad skepticism confronting Washington’s accusations, which come amid the Trump administration’s “maximum pressure” policy against Tehran, hint at a major impasse for the U.S. regarding its compromised credibility on the world stage.
On Friday, author and analyst Vijay Prashad told Democracy Now:
“It’s important for Americans to understand that the U.S. government is deeply isolated on this issue of Iran and on the way that the U.S. government portrays Iran. In the rest of the world, Iran is seen as a stabilizing force in that region. For some strange reason, the U.S. government believes that Iran is an interloper.
In other words, there are almost 80 million Iranians who live in West Asia, and they somehow are seen to be out of place, whereas the United States … portrays itself as a regional actor. This is very bizarre for people around the world. And I think Americans need to understand that.”
But it’s worth recalling that the U.S. also faced widespread opposition and skepticism in 2003 over its pre-war accusations that then-Iraqi President Saddam Hussein enjoyed close ties to al-Qaeda and possessed weapons of mass destruction. In the end, none of that amounted to much in terms of dissuading the White House and the Pentagon from launching a military adventure that ultimately proved to be a debacle for all parties involved.
And if some reports are to be believed, the U.S. may be considering waging a limited armed conflict against Iran in the coming days.
According to Israeli newspaper Maariv, anonymous diplomatic sources at the U.N. building in New York claim that the U.S. is planning on launching “massive” tactical strikes on an Iranian facility linked to its nuclear program. The sources claim that while President Trump himself is far from enthusiastic about such an option, he’s largely grown impatient about the matter and willing to give hardline Secretary Pompeo a free hand to do as he wants.
The report, which is completely unverifiable, comes as Iran has signaled that it will break from the multilateral nuclear agreement signed in 2015—which Trump already comprehensively shredded last year—and will enrich uranium at much higher levels than previously agreed.
Whether Washington is seriously considering an attack on Iran or whether this is more bluffing and psychological warfare remains to be seen.
However, we can say with great certainty that the United States, and the world, will incur huge costs in the event of any ill-considered wager on launching a war with Iran, be it “tactical” or “strategic.”
While the U.S. can no longer win wars—as it has shown in Iraq and Afghanistan—it still maintains the unrivaled capability to unleash destruction on a massive scale.
Dolphin Swims Through Louisiana Neighborhood in Aftermath of Hurricane Ida
A Louisiana family was shocked to find a dolphin swimming through their neighborhood in the aftermath of Hurricane Ida.
Amanda Huling and her family were assessing the damage to their neighborhood in Slidell, Louisiana, when they noticed the dolphin swimming through the inundated suburban landscape.
In video shot by Huling, the marine mammal’s dorsal fin can be seen emerging from the water.
“The dolphin was still there as of last night but I am in contact with an organization who is going to be rescuing it within the next few days if it is still there,” Huling told FOX 35.
Ida slammed into the coast of Louisiana this past weekend. The Category 4 hurricane ravaged the power grid of the region, plunging residents of New Orleans and upwards of 1 million homes and businesses in Louisiana and Mississippi into the dark for an indefinite period of time.
Officials have warned that the damage has been so extensive that it could take weeks to repair the power grid, reports Associated Press.
Also in Slidell, a 71-year-old man was attacked by an alligator over the weekend while he was in his flooded shed. The man went missing and is assumed dead, reports WDSU.
Internet users began growing weary last year about the steady stream of stories belonging to a “nature is healing” genre, as people stayed indoors and stories emerged about animals taking back their environs be it in the sea or in our suburbs.
However, these latest events are the surreal realities of a world in which extreme weather events are fast becoming the new normal – disrupting our lives in sometimes predictable, and occasionally shocking and surreal, ways.
Mom in LA Suburbs Fights Off Mountain Lion With Bare Hands, Rescues 5-Year-Old Son
A mother in Southern California is being hailed as a hero after rescuing her five-year-old son from an attacking mountain lion.
The little boy was playing outside his home in Calabasas, a city lying west of Los Angeles in the Santa Monica Mountains, when the large cat pounced on him.
The 65-pound (30 kg) mountain lion dragged the boy about 45 yards across the front lawn before the mother acted fast, running out and striking the creature with her bare hands and forcing it to free her son.
“The true hero of this story is his mom because she absolutely saved her son’s life,” California Department of Fish and Wildlife spokesman Captain Patrick Foy told Associated Press on Saturday.
“She ran out of the house and started punching and striking the mountain lion with her bare hands and got him off her son,” Foy added.
The boy sustained significant injuries to his head, neck and upper torso, but is now in stable condition at a hospital in Los Angeles, according to authorities.
The mountain lion was later located and killed by an officer with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, who found the big cat crouching in the bushes with its “ears back and hissing” at the officer shortly after he arrived at the property.
“Due to its behavior and proximity to the attack, the warden believed it was likely the attacking lion and to protect public safety shot and killed it on sight,” the wildlife department noted in its statement.
The mountain lion attack is the first such attack on a human in Los Angeles County since 1995, according to Fish and Wildlife.
The Santa Monica Mountains is a biodiverse region teeming with wildlife such as large raptors, mountain lions, bears, coyote, deer, lizards, and snakes. However, their numbers have rapidly faded in recent years, causing local wildlife authorities to find new ways to manage the region’s endemic species.
Video Shows Taliban Taking Joyride in Captured US Blackhawk Helicopter
The rapid fall of Kabul to the Taliban has resulted in a number of surreal sights – from footage of the Islamist group’s fighters exercising at a presidential gym to clips of combatants having a great time on bumper cars at the local fun park.
However, a new video of Taliban members seemingly testing their skills in the cockpit of a commandeered UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter shows the chilling extent to which U.S. wares have fallen into the hands of a group it spent trillions of dollars, and exhaustive resources, to stamp out.
In the new video, shared on Twitter, the front-line utility helicopter can be seen taxiing on the ground at Kandahar Airport in southeastern Afghanistan, moving along the tarmac. It is unclear who exactly was sitting in the cockpit, and the Black Hawk cannot be seen taking off or flying.
It is unlikely that the Taliban have any combatants who are sufficiently trained to fly a UH-60 Black Hawk.
The helicopter, which carries a $6 million price tag, is just a small part of the massive haul that fell into the militant group’s hands after the country’s central government seemingly evaporated on Aug. 14 amid the withdrawal of U.S. and coalition troops.
Some 200,000 firearms, 20,000 Humvees and hundreds of aircraft financed by Washington for the now-defunct Afghan Army are believed to be in the possession of the Taliban.
The firearms include M24 sniper rifles, M18 assault weapons, anti-tank missiles, automatic grenade launchers, rocket-propelled grenades and mortars.
Taliban fighters in the elite Badri 313 Brigade have been seen in propaganda images showing off in uniforms and wielding weaponry meant for the special forces units of the Afghan Army.
The U.S. is known to have purchased 42,000 light tactical vehicles, 9,000 medium tactical vehicles and over 22,000 Humvees between 2003 and 2016.
The White House remains unclear on how much weaponry has fallen into Taliban hands, with National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan admitting last week that the U.S. lacks a “clear picture of just how much missing $83 billion of military inventory” the group has.