(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.