4 January 2020   Leave a comment

President Trump has tweeted a stark and bellicose note to Iran and the world. The Washington Post quotes:

“Iran has been nothing but a problem for many years,” Trump tweeted. “Let this serve as a WARNING that if Iran strikes any Americans, or American assets, we have targeted 52 Iranian sites (representing the 52 American hostages taken by Iran many years ago), some at a very high level & important to Iran & the Iranian culture, and those targets, and Iran itself, WILL BE HIT VERY FAST AND VERY HARD. The USA wants no more threats!”

I am not sure why Mr. Trump would signal US war plans to an adversary or why he thinks that threats would induce Iran to stop threatening. The tweet is reminiscent of the “fire and fury” threats he once issued to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un which had all the power of a damp squib. But we should be very clear about how this crisis evolved.

Iran signed an agreement with the US, France, Russia, China, Germany, and Great Britain that ensured that Iran would halt its nuclear program in exchange for a halt to the UN and US sanctions that were put in place to persuade Iran not to develop nuclear weapons. That agreement was signed on 25 July 2015 and every monitoring agency agreed that Iran had observed the terms of the agreement. Nonetheless, on 8 May 2018, President Trump violated the agreement by ending US compliance without any evidence that Iran had broken its promises. In August of 2018 the US re-imposed the sanctions and in April of 2019 the US placed sanctions on any state purchasing Iranian oil. This extra-territorial extension of US policy was the functional equivalent of total war against Iran since oil revenues comprise a significant percentage of the government’s revenues.

For the entire year, Iran adhered to the terms of the nuclear agreement despite the US actions, but warned that it not continue to do so unless the other signatories of the agreement made arrangements to assure that Iranian oil could be sold. Those arrangements were never made and in May of 2019 Iran began small violations to the agreement, none large enough to make Iran capable of producing a nuclear bomb. In addition, Iran began harassing and hijacking oil tankers through the Strait of Hormuz to demonstrate to the world that if Iranian oil could not be sold, then Saudi Arabian, Kuwaiti, and UAE oil would not be sold as well.

USA Today provides a timeline of events since that point:

July 4

Gibraltar and British marines seize the Iranian oil tanker Grace 1 at the request of the United States. The ship is suspected of illegally transporting oil to Syria.

July 18

Trump says a U.S. Navy vessel shot down an Iranian drone that came within 1,000 of the ship.

July 20

Iran seizes the British-owned oil tanker Stena Impero near the Strait of Hormuz.

July 22

Iran says it’s arrested 17 Iranians and charged them with spying for the United States. News reports say some of the Iranians were executed.

Dec. 27

A U.S. civilian contractor is killed and several troops injured in a rocket attack in Kirkuk. The Iran-backed militia group Kataeb Hezbollah is blamed.

Dec. 29

U.S. planes bomb three sites in Iraq – one of them in Al-Qaim – and two sites in Syria. Twenty-five people are killed. The sites are tied to Kataeb Hezbollah.

Dec. 31

Militia-backed protesters attack the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad.

Jan. 2

Iranian military leader Qasem Soleimani and five others are killed in a U.S. drone strike at Baghdad airport. U.S. officials call it a “defensive action,” saying Soleimani planned attacks on U.S. diplomats and troops.

This sequence of events is the basis for my belief that the US provoked the war. Iran is hardly an innocent state, but one should ask this counterfactual question: “Would we be in this current situation if all parties had continued to observe the terms of the Iranian nuclear agreement?” States can always concoct pretexts for war, but, from my point of view, it was the US that initiated economic war against Iran.

Posted January 4, 2020 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

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