Will the U.S. Start a War Against Iran?

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By Vijay Prashad, an Indian historian, editor and journalist. He is a writing fellow and chief correspondent at Globetrotter, a project of the Independent Media Institute. He is the chief editor of  LeftWord Books and the director of Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research. He has written more than twenty books, including The Darker Nations: A People’s History of the Third World (The New Press, 2007), The Poorer Nations: A Possible History of the Global South (Verso, 2013), The Death of the Nation and the Future of the Arab Revolution (University of California Press, 2016) and Red Star Over the Third World( LeftWord, 2017). He writes regularly for Frontline, the Hindu, Newsclick, AlterNet and BirGün. Produced by Globetrotter, a project of the Independent Media Institute

On Sunday, May 5, U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton announced that the USS Abraham LincolnCarrier Strike Group and a bomber task force had begun to make their way from the Mediterranean Sea toward the coastline of Iran. Iran, Bolton said, had made “a number of troubling and escalatory indications and warnings.” He was, characteristically, not specific. It was enough that Bolton—who has a history of making hazardous statements—had made these comments from the perch of the White House in Washington, D.C. “The United States is not seeking war with the Iranian regime,” he said rather incredulously. After all, what is the arrival of a massive war fleet on the coastline of a country but a declaration of war?

On his way to Europe, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that the “indications and warnings” included actions by the Lebanese political formation Hezbollah. Once more, Pompeo said he would give no evidence. “I don’t want to talk about what underlays it.”

The journey of the USS Abraham Lincolnthrough the Red Sea comes as the U.S. government tries to tighten its sanctions regime against Iran. Any country that buys Iranian oil, the United States now says, will be liable to have sanctions placed against it. The five countries most vulnerable to further U.S. sanctions are China, India, Japan, South Korea, and Turkey. India, Japan, and South Korea have said that they would try and abide by the new, and harsh, U.S. sanctions. China and Turkey have made it clear that they will not follow the U.S. lead.

Iran’s Economy

Iran’s deputy oil minister Amir Hossein Zamaninia toldIranian state media that his ministry will oversee the sale of Iran’s oil into the “gray market.” The U.S. sanctions, Zamaninia said, are “illegal,” and therefore Iran is entitled to use all kinds of methods to circumvent them. The “gray market” includes loading tankers with Iranian oil—often sold at deep discounts—and then allowing them to alter their signals as they go out into open water. Congestion of tankers on the world’s waters makes it difficult to monitor which tanker has actually come from which port. But even if Iran sells oil on the gray market, the volumes will drop significantly, and this will impact Iran’s external revenues.

In April, the International Monetary Fund projectedthat Iran’s economy would likely slide downhill by 6 percent in 2019. The main reason for this continued slide is of course the U.S.-led sanctions that have whittled away at Iran’s budget and at the confidence of its people. Iran’s macroeconomic situation is hurt by large-scale budget deficits—projected to reach over $14 billion this year—and the flooding of the market with Iranian rials—so that money supplied grew by over 20 percent. Serious problems of capital flight and of tax evasion dog Iran’s prospects. Kazem Delkhosh, the deputy head of the Iranian parliament’s economic commission, estimatesthat about 40 percent of the country’s income is hidden from the tax authorities.

It did not help that last month Iran faced devastating floods in the country’s northeast and southwest. The damage is estimated to cost $2.5 billion. Countries that want to send financial support toward the flood victims cannot do so as a result of the U.S. sanctions on financial systems, says the Iranian Red Crescent Society. This is why in-kind aid has been the only thing that has been permitted into the country, with China sending tents and Austria sending blankets. But even in-kind aid, including from Saudi Arabia and the UAE, was blocked due to the U.S. sanctions. Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif wrote onTwitter, “Iranian Red Crescent can’t receive any funds due to illegal US sanctions. US should own up to its ECONOMIC TERRORISM.”


On Wednesday, May 8, Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani will go on television and the radio to announce his country’s response to the U.S. withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear deal and to the harsh new sanctions’ regime.

The United States had permitted Russian and European firms to do work on Iran’s nuclear energy sector. Five waivers had been given to help four Iranian facilities—at the Bushehr nuclear power plant, the Fordow enrichment facility, the Arak nuclear complex and the Tehran Research Reactor. Pompeo allowed three waivers to be extended for 90 days (half the length of the previous waivers) but disallowed two. The two that were not renewed include one to Russia, which had swapped Iranian enriched uranium for Russian raw yellowcake, and one to companies that operate in Oman to store heavy water from Iran. Both Russia and Europe are not happy with this situation. Iran has refused to stop enrichment, which is essential to its nuclear energy program—legal under the terms of the 2015 agreement. It is likely that Rouhani will affirm Iran’s right to continue to enrich uranium for its power reactors.

Last month, Iran’s senior leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei urged his Iraqi counterparts to “make sure that the Americans withdraw their troops from Iraq as soon as possible because expelling them has become difficult whenever they have had a long military presence in a country.” Iran and Iraq have—since the U.S. war against Iraq in 2003—deepened their ties. Close economic links, including roadways and a potential train, have made both countries dependent on each other (Iraq, despite U.S. pressure, imports Iran’s oil). Khamenei referred to the 5,200 U.S. troops who remain in Iraq. Bolton has said that these troops are there to “watch Iran,” a phrase that has been widely mocked after Trump used it earlier this year.

The war of words has escalated into dangerous territory. In April, Trump’s government called Iranian military forces “terrorists.” In response, the Iranian parliament retaliated. Defense Minister General Amir Hatami put a bill forward that would allow Iran’s government to respond to the “terrorist actions” of U.S. forces. It was not clear how Iran would respond, although the bill suggested that the response could be political and diplomatic rather than military.

The U.S. government has said that Iran might target U.S. troops in Iraq or elsewhere in the region. These are likely the “indications and warnings” of Bolton. There are tens of thousands of U.S. troops in Afghanistan, Iraq and the Gulf. The U.S. military hardware that encircles Iran is lethal. Late last year, the Iranian government—feeling hemmed in by this military noose—proposed that it could strike U.S. forces at al-Udeid Air Base (Qatar), al-Dhafra base (United Arab Emirates) and Kandahar base (Afghanistan). “They are within our reach,” said Amirali Hajizadeh, who heads Iran’s Revolutionary Guards’ air brigade. As if to provoke Iran further, in March of this year, the United States signed a deal with Oman to use its ports at Salalah and Duqm for military purposes.

Endless Wars

In his state of the union address, Trump said, “Great nations do not fight endless wars.” The United States has tried to push a new deal in Afghanistan and has tried to withdraw from the conflict in Syria. Neither of these withdrawals will be easy.

But if the United States strikes Iran, there is no doubt that the wars from Lebanon to the border of India will become endless. There is no question that Iran—much weaker militarily than the United States—will use its advantages to strike the United States inside Afghanistan and to urge its allies to strike U.S. forces in the Gulf and across North Africa. Iran’s population is deeply patriotic and would see any U.S. strike as one against the Iranian people and not just against the Iranian government. It is unlikely that the United States will find any significant allies amongst the Iranians. A war against Iran at this time would be a war against a stretch of the world that has seen too many wars in recent times, that would like to open the door to peace. Trump—with Bolton and Pence—seek to provoke a war. These are dangerous men with a dangerous agenda.

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  1. John Zelnicker

    If the last person to talk to Trump convinces him to go to war with Iran, he’s very likely to do so, in spite of his seeming non-interventionist attitude.

    There’s is also an issue that I haven’t seen yet in regards to Iran and Venezuela. When Obama was preparing to run for re-election, Trump tweeted that if Obama wanted to insure his re-election all he needed to do was find an excuse to go to war with someone, because Americans will always re-elect a war president, e.g., GWB.

    The pressure on Trump is growing and as his desperation increases there is no option I would exclude in terms of his determination to remain in power.

    Actually, I agree with others that Trump will not give up the presidency peacefully if he loses the 2020 election, even if by a landslide. I believe he will do anything to remain in power, including instigating violence by his right-wing, gun-worshiping supporters.

    And, I have yet to see a good answer to the question of who escorts Trump out of the White House if and when he losses the election in 2020, or in 2024. /rant off

    1. FDR Liberal

      The military would be the likely option to enforce that the winner of the electoral college is sworn in as president, therefore becomes commander in chief. Given Trump’s track record of pissing off senior management of the armed forces they won’t do his bidding. The military takes an oath to defend the Constitution not the commander in chief.

      1. voteforno6

        Not the military – more likely the Secret Service and/or FBI. Trump could fulminate all he wants about being ripped off, and claim that he’s not leaving the White House. Once Congress certifies the election results, then it’s a done deal. Come noon on January 20th, he’ll no longer be President, and he’ll be dragged out of office, kicking and screaming, if need be.

    2. Chris Cosmos

      I think this manufactured fantasy of Trump not giving up the Presidency is, like the whole Russiagate conspiracy theory, propaganda invented by the most corrupt elements of the Democratic Party and their media propaganda outlets. I see no evidence of that at all. Trump is a rascal to be sure but the idea is so utterly juvenile I’m flabbergasted. The National Security State in Washington calls the shots and if they see Trump trying to take power in that way they will not support him and, in fact, arrest him and he knows it–there’s only a snowballs chance in Hell of that happening even if we are in the middle of a war.

      1. Rog

        “”I think this manufactured fantasy of Trump not giving up the Presidency is, like the whole Russiagate conspiracy theory, propaganda invented by the most corrupt elements of the Democratic Party and their media propaganda outlets. I see no evidence of that at all””

        Read the Mueller Report.;

      2. Aumua

        Agree 100% that breathless visions of Trump refusing to leave office when the time comes are half baked and overblown to say the least. Give it a rest will ya?

        Read the Mueller Report.;

        Why, is there something in it that hasn’t been reported widely by mainstream news sources?

  2. Redlife2017

    The key sentence: “Iran’s population is deeply patriotic and would see any U.S. strike as one against the Iranian people and not just against the Iranian government.”

    I have been to Iran (after 2009) and that is almost an understatement. That doesn’t mean that the people like their government. Hardly. I met lots of people randomly and they didn’t seem to like their government at all (it’s interestingly very easy to speak with regular Iranians. English is often used on official posters quoting Khomeini for instance.). But they are fiercely patriotic. They remember the Iran-Iraq War quite viscerally (understandably) and see it as a world war against Iran. It was pointed out to me that Iran captured people from 25 countries. Iran was on its own (not counting the Iran-Contra stuff!). Every town has memorials to their fallen brothers, to the point that they have lamppost flags commemorating the fallen with their name and pictures. They have mosques which are dedicated to Ali and house the bodies of their fallen brothers, fathers, etc. It’s intense.

    The Iranian people are the most wonderful, friendly, courageous people I have ever met. But they are also stubborn and “know” their greatness. They view themselves as the most developed of the Middle Eastern countries with a long history of sophistication. That was pretty consistent even amongst the most anti-government people you’d meet.

    I will also note that they had very creative ways to get around the blockade last time (they managed to figure out how to circumvent not being able to use western credit cards and get payment via, uh, interesting means that I was witness to). They are nothing if not survivors and industrious/ creative.

    In summary: This will be a sh**show of massive proportions. It could easily spiral out of control like WWI. The Iranians will use all means at their disposal and they will be asymmetric and very creative.

    1. PlutoniumKun

      Thanks, I’ve never been to Iran (hope to one day), but everyone I know who’s been there comments on the immense generosity of the people and their toughness and resilience.

      They also have a fiercely experienced and successful military, they know very well how to cause chaos with minimal resources. The US can certainly economically destroy Iran – it wouldn’t take many strikes on key oil and energy installations. But Iran’s revenge would be imaginative and hugely disruptive.

      1. TimmyB

        The US rotates aircraft carriers and bomber groups to and from the Middle East all the time. The fact that it is happening again is of little consequence, other than the US government has decided to publicize it this time around.

        As for the US tryin to start a war with Iran, I’m sure there are many people in the Trump Administration, such as John Bolton for example, who would be overjoyed if there was a war with Iran. What my country’s real motives are with Iran is beyond me.

        I know if I were Iran and the US attacked, I would do everything in my power to destroy Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries’ that are US allies’ ability to produce and export oil to the West. The missile would fly.

        I also suspect that Russia would feel the same about a US attack/invasion of its next door neighbor Iran as we would if Russia did the same to Mexico. I rarely see this being discussed, but it is something the US should strongly consider.

      2. Rakesh Shah

        Let’s face a simple reality. Iran has nuclear arsenal. And US will not wage a war against a country with nuclear arsenal. They can’t bomb North Korea as well. So war is not an option for US. Their loss will be huge.

        1. Massinissa

          Pretty sure they don’t actually have a nuclear arsenal yet. Which is part of why this is happening.

          If they DO have a nuclear arsenal it would be nice if you showed a source.

    2. GM

      Yeah, one has to be a complete lunatic to think that they can just go to war with Iran and win it.

      Sure, the US can destroy the Iranian military, but if they try to control the place beyond that, they are facing a situation that will make Vietnam look like a picnic (forget about Iraq and Afghanistan).

      Either the people in charge are complete idiots (which cannot be dismissed as a possibility, that is what the evidence on the surface would suggest) with no understanding of the history and culture of the region, or they are at this point completely desperate to place as much of the remaining oil reserves in the world under control.

      After all Peak Oil is here at this point.

      By the way, the best way to make sense of the encirclement of Russia is from that perspective too — the Russian resources are extremely valuable, and not just the oil, gas and all the other mineral riches, the Russian plain will be on of the few places that might actually benefit from climate change, and will certainly be in much better position to continue producing food than most other places in the world. The really scary part is that if indeed this is what it is all about, the Russians will most likely not surrender without annihilating the whole world in the process. One of the high-ranking Russian general said a couple years ago something in the spirit of “What is the point of a world in which there is no Russia in it?”.

      1. Norb

        Recently saw a figure about Russian proven gas fields. 175 trillion cubic ft. What self respecting capitalist wouldn’t want to get their hands on that booty? What self respecting tyrant wouldn’t want to keep that booty all for themselves?

        Oligarchs and plutocrats duking it out for dominance and “market share”. The problem with this paradigm is that the weapons needed to ensure the survival of each faction have evolved to be too powerful to use. Each ideology too extreme to allow for compromise. Each one willing to prefer annihilation than submitting to the others will.

        Cooperation is the only path for survival.

      2. Olga

        Actually, that last statement was not by a general, but VVP himself (https://www.rt.com/news/420715-putin-world-russia-nuclear/)
        “Certainly, it would be a global disaster for humanity; a disaster for the entire world,” Putin said, in an interview for a Russian documentary “The World Order 2018,” adding that “as a citizen of Russia and the head of the Russian state I must ask myself: Why would we want a world without Russia?”
        Just think what the US could achieve if it put its considerable energies into peaceful efforts – instead of endlessly stoking tensions around the world?!

      3. NotTimothyGeithner

        The U.S. might destroy the Iranian military if it was in Mexico or Canada or Australia. Our glorious victory in Iraq required:

        -a much smaller and geographically favorable on it ions
        -years of sanctions, which affected the Iraqi military
        -no buildup. We’ve had pre-op site one equipment for years
        -the myth of being rebuilt. Plenty of Iraqis simply expected the U.S. to arrive, be embarrassed, and leave after cutting a check.
        -two large and enforced no-fly zones
        -easier supply lines
        -a tech edge we have passed away
        -a military dependent of foreign parts and lacking allies

        An attack on Iran wouldn’t be compared to a bad Vietnam. Picketts charge on coke. In 50 years, the white supremacists will hail Trump as an unparalleled military strategerist for bizarre reasons.

        1. Susan the other`

          GHW Bush was happy to go into Iraq in the first Desert Storm. But why he left the job so unfinished is a puzzle. Both Iraq wars were concocted with lunatic pretexts. And both look to be unfinished business. Intentionally. After Odyssey Dawn (what a cheesy name) we flooded Iraq with dollars and left all our equipment there when we came home. Saying it was too expensive to cart it all away. Right. From the very beginning of OD the maps showed us surrounding and creating a siege of Iran. It has remained that way since 2002. Yet we do not follow up with a full military conflict. We are either afraid of a war with Iran or we are making some gain from procrastinating. My guess is procrastinating. But we seem to be doing the same in Venezuela. That one will be long and drawn out as well. If we don’t want to go to war we shouldn’t be pretending. It’s an awful waste of resources and causes untold misery and pollution. Those little externalities. It’s laughable to think we are not interested in oil. In controlling all of it. All of the time. Maybe the threat of someone torching those oil fields is keeping us in check. But the logic of all this maneuvering just doesn’t come together. It would be so much better to come to the table with Iran, and even include Israel, that continue with all this crap. It’s time to stop it.

          1. NotTimothyGeithner

            But why he left the job so unfinished is a puzzle.

            This is a right wing framing device that’s been pushed since then, probably by the Air Force when the Air Force was slaughtering people and was stopped by 41. Even then I think it was mostly whining about Bill from Republican aligned defense contractors.

            41 despite the failures of his diplomacy prior to the invasion of Kuwait was clear about the intended goals and achieved those goals. He may have fell into that “wimp” trap of his and kept an aggressive stance with his “support to the rebels” speech when he had no intention of following through and Bill Clinton pushed an aggressive stance.

            We may have thrown out some b.s. about incubator babies, but even the Saudis had legitimate concerns about Hussein having seized so much oil.

            1. Susan the other`

              And also, already back then there was an unspoken alliance between Iraq and Iran even though they’d just gone to war against each other. The enemy of my enemy is my friend. But Iran wasn’t friend enough to come to the aid of Iraq until after we backed off, or so it seems. In any event, I still think that the guiding principle of our efforts to subjugate Iran is their access to Caspian oil. So just like Maduro, what we’d like to see is a change of regime. I’m not really against our control of oil. Better us than some other people I can think about. I’m against how we achieve our ends. It’s medieval. Worse. Just the most obvious example: if we had spent not even half of the budget for the Iraq war on updating their infrastructure and reviving their economy, and had been generous with Iran as well – just to be good guys – we’d have won everything we wanted and more. We’d have made lasting friendships. It would be fun to turn the military into reverse-military. Daddy Warbucks without the war – with only generosity. Funny how that thought pleases me. And we’d prolly spend a fraction of our current budget.

              1. Abi

                Why are you in support of your country trying to control other people’s resources?

                I can’t imagine why that’s sonething you don’t have a problem with

    3. Norb

      Very respectful comment, thanks. In the US, it would be preferable if a modicum of respect returned to our foreign policy discussions. One can disagree with Iranians and respect them at the same time. That is what sane foreign policy is about, and the only way to avoid WWIII.

      One has to wonder if a war with Iran will be, to borrow a phrase, “a bridge too far”. It is impossible to predict what will happen if this step is taken by the US government and its military. The danger is that too many Americans still view war as a “show”. It has become, thru public conditioning, a form of entertainment. It is distorted patriotism.

      The American public needs a wakeup call before it is too late.

      A quote from someone who knows something about war- Hermann Goring

      “Naturally, the common people don’t want war … but after all it is the leaders of a country who determine the policy, and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is to tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in every country.”

      Bolton says in public that we are messengers of peace. And when our war fleet is attacked, or bombs go off on the mainland US, the call will go out to “Protect the Nation”.

      Then it will be off to the races.

  3. Tyronius

    I don’t see how the buffoons surrounding Trump will be able to credibly spin another bout of military adventurism as ‘defensive’ and therefore I think the current climate in America is such that the more they try to start one, the more it will erode Trump’s chances for reelection.

    1. Procopius

      Something like the attack on the Danzig radio station? The Germans claimed the Poles attacked them, so they were responding, they were not aggressors. Say, have Special Operators in a speedboat drop a couple of floating mines in the Strait of Hormuz and claim it was the Iranians who did it. They’ll find a way, and Russiagate proves a large plurality of Americans will believe it unquestioningly.

      1. workingclasshero

        I agree with procopius.the american body politic is a mediocrity and will fall for and/or eventually cave into a well orchestrated false flag operation,or more likely triple down on sanctions and provocations until the iranians have to respond witj force.it usually works.

    2. John Wright

      In World War I, the sinking of the Lusitania, which is sometimes cited as a reason for the USA to enter World War I, occurred on 7 May 1915.

      The USA did not declare war on Germany until almost two years later (2 April 1917).

      It took a while to get America into the war, but it eventually happened.

      The “let’s go to war with Iran” campaign simply needs to be managed in the US media to drive the political elite into acceptance.

      The population does not have to be behind it, only the people controlling the government.

      The Democrats could be a countervailing force, but their entire amping up of the “Russia threat to our democracy” makes me deeply skeptical.

      At least George Custer actually led his troops into battle and lost his own life.

      Now we have remote chicken hawks, such as Bolton and Pompeo, promoting wars in which they seem to never pay any price.

      They may believe the world will never hold Nuremberg trials for them as the USA will protect them.

  4. jackiebass

    Bolton, Pompeo and the neocons promoting more war belong in jail. Lock them up and throw away the key.

    1. Jon Cloke

      Bolton and Pompeo by themselves might not be enough, although they’ve been trying really hard for a long time (remember Bolton’s videos for the MEK while they were still on the FBI terrorist list?).

      Bolton, Pompeo, Netenyahu and AIPAC might do the trick, though, now that Netenyahu is morphing into the Slobodan Milosevice of the Middle East – what kind of black flag ‘incident’ might be enough to convince Trump, I wonder?

  5. dearieme

    Has the Russiagate slow-motion attempted coup made it more or less likely that Trump will start foolish wars?

      1. Robert Valiant

        I think his base likes the idea of “peace through aggressive posturing.” I’m suspicious that those behind the throne (Pompeo, Bolton, etc.) are not just posturing.

      2. polecat

        Just what exactly is his ‘base’ ?? .. I always hear reference made, but no breakdown of who his base is comprised of ..

        1. Chigal in Carolina

          In this case, he’s playing to Israel and Xian fundamentalists in this country. A longer comment I made previously explaining more seems to be stuck in someone’s craw.

  6. John A

    This sentence sums up US arrogance
    ‘The United States had permitted Russian and European firms to do work on Iran’s nuclear energy sector.’

    Permitted? How about going back to rule of law and the United Nations as a genuine, independent, justice is blind, sovereign body.
    The US is just the big outsized playground bully that everyone individually is afraid to stand up to. But one day, the bully will be shown to be a big bluffer, and eventually have to turn tail and run away, as all bullies eventually do. But it is not just Trump, Obama and his ‘we are the indispensible nation’ nonsense was just as bad.

    1. Chris Cosmos

      Since 9/11 both international law has been deliberately flouted by the National Security State. The US in most wars has pretended to follow the Geneva Conventions on War but violated it consistently but is still championed the idea of rule of law. Today, the military (includes the State Department, intel services or any agency of government dealing with foreign affairs) does as it pleases to administer the world Empire. Imperialism is strenuously supported by both political parties and Americans love their military so international law is, at best, a joke.

  7. timbers

    So, if Iran has all this capability to make things difficult for the U.S. – why is she not doing it? Now is the time to make thing hard for the U.S.

    Why is Russia not funding strikes on American troops in Afghanistan? Why is she not striking at U.S. weakness? The U.S. is doing this against the Russians in Syria near her military base.

    Said it before and I’ll say it again: nations being targeted by the U.S. MUST become completely, totally, 100% independent of the U.S. in every form, it’s dollar, it’s economy.

    No exceptions. Because the U.S. in not agreement capable and firmly run by warmongers who seek to conquer and destroy.

    On this note, why are Russia and China boycotting North Korea? This makes no sense. They should be strengthening trade with North Korea. This will weaken America. Instead, Russia and China by joining the U.S. only hurts Russia and China and makes the U.S. more powerful, a power that is and will be aimed at them.

    1. Norb

      I don’t think people appreciate how fragile modern society has become. It won’t take much to bring everything down. Look at the attacks on Venezuela’s power grid. While factions in the US pat themselves on the back for their cleverness, they fail to see that a dedicated enemy could easily cause massive disruption to the social function of ANY country. The US is capable of delivering this disruption so everyone else must be extremely cautions, all the while fending off internal factions that could be bought off by US money and influence.

      The US elite realize this and know they either have to compromise or go ALL in. They have chosen ALL IN. In their twisted minds, it is a good strategy. If they win, they win big. If they loose, they most likely ride the crumbling edifice down from the top. The masses being crushed by the falling debris. Either way, they will remain at the top of the rubble heap.

      Being a member in the Club is a strong motivator. One must be very principled to resist its temptations.

      1. Thuto

        Trying to fend off “internal factions that could be bought off with US money and influence” is flagged by the likes of Amnesty International and HRW as “human rights abuses” when done in other countries (especially countries making up the”axis of evil”)while the same is branded as “patriotism and defending the homeland” when done in the US.

    2. Chris Cosmos

      Why aren’t other countries reacting strongly against US imperialism? First, structurally, the US largely controls the single most important international “body” we have and that is the world’s financial system. It is a system that tightly controlled by the world’s elite–this is why even Europeans who have an inherent disgust of the brutality of the Empire are, nevertheless fully supporting the Empire. Thus, from that angle, the most important angle politically, the USA rules the roost, the dollar is the world’s reserve currency and while there are rumblings of that changing–it won’t in the medium term.

      Second, we have the utter military domination of the world by the Washington Empire. There are troops in 150 countries who are living there currently. The US can spend unlimited amounts of money on hardware, covert ops, bribes, assassinations, character assassinations, false flags, and every kind of mischief and Machiavellian technique you can imagine. The Empire knows no boundaries, no laws not of its own making and has almost unlimited public support by the US population. And that is the ultimate bottom line of US power. Everyone around the world knows that, if the US is attacked in any way the reaction will be insanely violent. I remember in the late nineties sharing an office with a Chinese intellectual who as a middle-school child suffered years of exile in a hard labor camp simply because his family were intellectuals. He basically was a patriot and believed China should push the US on some incident back then and I said that any active or violent confrontation would end up in a paroxysm of violence that would surprise him and his Chinese compatriots.

      The US is a violent and warlike country where its military is universally popular in fact the military is, by far, the most popular institution in the USA. Any attack on the US military in Iraq or Afghanistan would invite an overwhelming genocide of the Iranian people supported by both political parties. The Iranians, the Chinese, the Russians all know this. The ruling elites in the USA may be split, confused, and struggling for power among themselves as we witnessed in our recent wars where there were dozens of policies are co-existing at once and making a mess. That’s how the opponents of Empire survive–without direct confrontation or, at worst, subtle confrontation. No one wants to invite the end of the world coming from a population which is often on the edge of being collectively psychotic.

      1. Carey

        “..The US is a violent and warlike country where its military is universally popular in fact the military is, by far, the most popular institution in the USA..”

        Support for the military here in the Exceptional Nation is miles wide- consent being
        fairly easily manufactured, *for now*- and and maybe an inch deep.

  8. Thuto

    When the “moderate rebels”, aided and abetted by the US and its allies were marching triumphantly towards Damascus, Russia swooped in and the balance of power shifted back towards Syrian government forces. The point being this: A hot war between Iran and the US will, imo, by necessity draw in Russia (and maybe China). If Russia could be drawn in to act as a countervailing force in Syria, I cannot in a million years see Russia standing idly by as a key ally is attacked by an imperialist bully. The last thing Moscow would want is “victory” in Iran leading to an emboldened band of lunatics in Washington taking ever greater leave of their senses and believing that the appointed time for their wet dream of attacking Russia had arrived and Tehran was just roadkill on the way to Moscow.

    Iran is too important a piece in the geopolitical chess game for this to be a war just between the US and Tehran. Yes the Boltons of the world will froth at the mouth that Russia would have the temerity to stand in the way of their collective hallucination of him and his fellow mad men being the “victors that will write history”. These latest round of sanctions are meant to be the worm on the hook to bait Iran into a “first strike” to change the optics of the situation and position the US as the defender (cue the regurgitated rhetoric about “freeing the Iranian people”).

    “Will the US start a war with Iran?”. The (extremely) buggy psychological firmware operating the minds of Trump and his “advisors” suggests we might be mighty close to all bets being off.

    1. Daniel Romig

      It’s no good praying to the powers that be
      ‘Cause they won’t shake the roots of the money tree
      No good praying to the pristine alters
      Waiting for the blessing with Holy Water
      They like the same old wealth wealth in the same old hands
      Means that the same old people stay in command

      The good and righteous sing their hymns
      The crimpoline dresses who have no sins
      Christians by day, killers in war
      The hypocrites who know what they’re fighting for
      Killing for peace, freedom and truth
      But they’re too old to go so they send the youth

      Watch the money-go-round, watch the money-go-round

      -Paul Weller & Style Council

      1. Tony Wright

        “There must be some way out of here,
        Said the drummer to the beat” -Dylan, and later by Jimi Hendrix.
        Trump&Co are already seriously threatening human survival by their climate change denial. Add the’lash out at Iran’ scenario outlined above and it makes it all the more imperative for Americans to vote Trump out in 2020.
        Either that or hope he and his MAGA cheer squad succumb to all those Big Macs ASAP.

  9. Mirdif

    To answer the question in the headline: NO.

    This move I fear isn’t connected to Iran at all. Something is afoot in Saudi Arabia – MBS is on the outs with imperial command in DC. Another faction is moving against him and has the backing of Trump/Pompeo/Bolton and it’s led by Abdul-Aziz bin Fahd and al-Waleed bin Talal.

    I might not have believed that MBS was on the outs but when you see random twitter bots pro-MBS and calling Trump “a pig” then something has changed in the past 72 hours.

    The origin of this rumour is the same dissident twitter account that warned Khashoggi a full eleven months previous to his murder – do not enter any Saudi embassies. I think that qualifies for somebody that should be taken notice of.

  10. The Rev Kev

    Any war could be headed off by the Russians sending a goodwill mission to Iran. Say, a division’s worth of goodwill. Needles to say, there would not be much goodwill in the hallways at Foggy Bottom if this happened. China might then say that they are going to send reinforcements. When challenged for what purpose, they could say to reinforce all the goodwill going on in Iran.
    Seriously, it would be easy for Bolton & Pompeo to start a war with Iran but it would be completely up to Iran as to when it finished. Iran does share a border with Afghanistan and it would be a shame if the Taliban got ahold of some manpads and ATGMs to use against US forces. By coincidence, there are a heap of US bases surrounding Iran but the Pentagon may have forgotten that firepower can go both ways.
    A lot of US troops would get killed but at this stage I am convinced that this would be a factor of little consequence for people like Bolton and Pompeo so long as they ‘won”. At most, they would seek to use these deaths to get the people united against Iran because patriotism does not care who attacked first. Sad but true.

    1. J7915

      How about a long term lease on a port? A warm water port to the Indian ocean was the aim of the “Great Game” IIRC.

    2. Olga

      We have been hearing about an attach on Iran at least since 2005-2006 (maybe even earlier). I recall it seemed quite imminent back then. And yet, US did not attack. And that was before the “resurgent” Russia and a more confident China emerged. (Maybe that is why the US re-focused on Syria, as it may have seemed a softer target. In 2002, a war game pointed to US losing a war against Iran: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g9b1DG86a4k).
      A more recent assessment by RAND also shows US’ military weaknesses:
      My guess would be that Russia did not go into Syria only to let US attack Iran. They will resist – anyway they can. There would be no way for the US to go after Iran without provoking a much wider regional war. And imagine the economic consequences of an attack!
      Although agreed that both “stache” Bolton and Pompeo are reckless enough to want to push for some skirmish.

      1. Massinissa

        THey learned what happens when they do no action. Libya has gone from having the highest human development index in Africa, to being one of the most troubled countries on an already deeply troubled continent. Having something like that happen to Syria or Iran, which are much closer to Russia, just isn’t in the cards.

  11. djrichard

    Trump needs to be careful what he asks for. He’s letting his hand be forced on issues that he doesn’t really need to be burning political capital on.

    Smaller case in point: Assange. He could have left Assange to rot in the embassy. Instead, he gets to take on the role of Pontius Pilate and decide the fate of Assange. Watch as he plays to the crowd, toying with Assange. But if he chooses a bad fate for Assange, a good chunk of his voter base will likely punish him for that. And if he chooses a good fate for Assange, the media and the Fed Gov’s deep state apparatus will use that as proof of Trump’s Russia bonafides. It’s a no win. If Trump was smart he would have avoided all of this to begin with.

    Same deal with Iran. He may soon be in the position to respond to Iran crossing a red line (e.g. closing off the straits), goaded into by Bolton or Pompeo crossing the red lines of Iran. Trump will finally have his opportunity to play the role of Caesar, “defending the empire”. Of course, his base will punish him for that. But then the media and deep state will lavish praise on him. Will it be enough to get him re-elected? Not that I can see. In which case, why even allow this to get to this point?

    1. Brooklin Bridge

      Is there really a part of Trump’s voter base that is FOR Assange (or enough so that they would penalize Trump for punishing him)? Just asking.

      All the Trump fans I’ve encountered on or off the Net have been strongly for serious/extreme punishment.

      1. djrichard

        It’s the ol “the enemy of my enemy is my friend”. If Assange is the enemy of the US deep state and of the democratic party, then he basically is the friend of Trump. And I think Trump’s voters recognize that. Certainly on Zerohedge they do.

        But Trump wants to use this opportunity to burnish his cred with his enemies, and will want to throw Assange to them as a bone. But it won’t win him any friends. After his voters see the treatment that Assange gets, I think it will leave more than a bad taste in their mouths. Really it should leave a bad taste in everybody’s mouth. Except for the bloodthirsty who want revenge. [When evil doers are in the house, the bloodthirst shall be quenched.]

  12. Chauncey Gardiner

    Re: “… The five countries most vulnerable to further U.S. sanctions are China, India, Japan, South Korea, and Turkey. India, Japan, and South Korea have said that they would try and abide by the new, and harsh, U.S. sanctions. China and Turkey have made it clear that they will not follow the U.S. lead.”
    Oh, “Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain”… or that carrier force. Instead, look at this bright shiny object over here… the China trade deal! It’s unraveling and… OMG! The stock market is dropping!…

    Why this is happening and how it is in the interest of the American people is patently unclear. A nice first step would be to restore and enforce the original Smith-Mundt Act.

  13. Andrew Thomas

    The madness in the USA which has led us to this terrifying moment cannot be understated; it is really impossible to put one’s arms around. Everything in the msm is untethered to reality. There is no knowledge at all ( exceptions at the margins excepted) of history or geography, either our own or of the world. Our most important religion- faux-Christianity- is a combination self-help con and doomsday cult. The goal of teaching children how to think critically was deliberately abandoned as a goal of our education systems under political pressure decades ago. We are capable of believing any ridiculous lie, but lack the mental infrastructure to even process simple truths, the stating of which marks the speakers as kooks. I lived through the Cuban Missile Crisis. Imagine that with three people in the situation room; two of them are Curtis LeMay and the President is William J. LePetomane. We will be very fortunate to survive this, and if we do, it will be the doing of Russia and China.

  14. Pink Prince

    Going to war with Iran will have much greater consequences than going to war with Iraq or Afghanistan. Iran may be much weaker than the USA but it is more advanced than the countries I mentioned. A war against Iran would also be based on lies just as the war on Iraq was & a war with Venezuela would be. Iran should have nuclear weapons so it can keep the USA, Israel, Saudi Arabia & other enemies out of their territory. If Iraq kept its WMD’s, the US & UK would be unable to bomb them as they were doing from the No-Fly Zones after the Gulf War ended & before the US & UK started a 2nd war there. If all of Israel’s neighbors had WMD’s, the West would leave them alone. JFK thought about invading Cuba to overthrow Castro. If Cuba had WMD’s, he would not think about that. If Nicaragua had WMD’s, Reagan would not have started a secret war there. If Venezuela had WMD’s, Trump would not think about starting a war there. It is good North Korea has WMD’s so it can stop the USA, Japan & South Korea from invading it.

  15. Ashburn

    US sanctions on Iran are economic warfare, plain and simple. The US is attempting to strangle Iran economically–at a horrible cost to the Iranian people–just to effect a regime change in Iran. I doubt this will work. Iran has been moderating its response to these threats and actions, likely in the hope of waiting for a US change of regime in 2020.

    If the US should escalate from sanctions into a hot war, Iran can seriously threaten not just US interests but the entire world economy. Iran is fully capable with its effective medium range missile force to knock out much of Saudi Arabia’s oil production and refining capacity. In addition, its Russian suppled anti-ship missiles could easily close the Straight of Hormuz indefinitely. Oil would go to well over $100 a barrel overnight.

    Happy now, Mr. Bolton?

  16. AbateMagicThinking But Not Money

    Known unknowns…

    As I understand it the West’s brightest intelligence operatives were somewhat surprised by the collapse of the USSR, so it would not surprise me if the bear and the peacock have an arrangement which is invisible to those whose job it is to know.

    What I do know is that the USSR had its own zone of control in Persia/Iran during the second world war, so the bear may have niggling sunk costs there. Some say that Iran is where the cold war started.


    ps Lenin is still in Red Square.

  17. VietnamVet

    Despite the barrage of propaganda and ultra mad man diplomacy, there has been no build up of tanks or troops to invade Iran. The unknowable is Israel. Do they really think a bombing campaign can take out Hezbollah? So far Iran has avoid provoking Washington DC. The Pentagon likely knows that a bombing campaign alone without troops cannot overthrow the Mullahs. The question is what do Mike Pompeo, John Bolton and Donald Trump think? Do they want to throw the dice to find out? LBJ and Jimmy Carter were one term Presidents because of Vietnam and the fall of the Shah. Donald Trump desperately needs a second term to avoid indictment. Sanctions won’t work. A blockade would stop Middle East oil shipments, bring on gasoline lines and likely start the war with Iran. Russia and China will support Iran. The current mini-world war in Syria could go nuclear.

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