False flag in the strait of Hormuz?

Could the extreme hawks in Washington be trying to force Trump’s hand to launch their hoped-for war against Iran?

Commercial vessel in the Straits of Hormuz attacked in early May 2019.

Four commercial vessels were sabotaged in early May close to Fujairah, a major tanker refuelling hub on the strait of Hormuz, by persons unknown. The imperialist media immediately put the blame on Iran, which denies any involvement.

Then on 13 June, two further ships were attacked, one Norwegian and one Japanese. Again, the US has been quick to blame Iran, and Iran has denied involvement.

This has happened in the context of US imperialist sanctions and military threats against Iran that have led the middle-eastern country to warn its adversaries that it is in a position to hamper shipping in the strait of Hormuz if they don’t back off.

Iran is well positioned to disrupt crude exports in this vital shipping lane, through which a fifth of the world’s consumption of crude oil passes. The sabotage, however, has all the hallmarks of a false-flag operation and could conceivably be explained by the fact that President Trump appears to be at loggerheads with Mike Pompeo and John Bolton as regards US policy towards Iran.

“Mr Trump himself has never expressed any strong desire to contain Iran on all fronts, as Mr Bolton and Mr Pompeo have.

“Last Friday [24 May], Mr Trump announced he was sending 1,500 additional American troops to the middle east. But it was a reluctant order, and the number was much smaller than what Iranian hardliners in the administration had requested. As a presidential candidate, Mr Trump called for an isolationist foreign policy and avoiding a middle east quagmire.

“The administration’s expansive policy against Iran came into sharp focus – and into conflict with Mr Trump’s instincts last fall …

“Mr Bolton and Mr Pompeo, on the other hand, have persisted in a policy of subduing Iran as broadly as possible – and setting the conditions by which the American military might confront Iranian forces or their partnered shiite Arab militias”. (Punching Iran over its foreign policy could lead to a faster path to war by Edward Wong, New York Times, 29 May 2019)

It is not beyond the bounds of possibility that the sabotage was designed to get Trump to set aside his doubts! If so, it would not appear to have worked.

“President Trump has sought to put the brakes on a brewing confrontation with Iran in recent days, telling the acting defence secretary, Patrick Shanahan, that he does not want to go to war with Iran, administration officials said, while his senior diplomats began searching for ways to defuse the tensions …

“The president has sought to tamp down reports of divisions among Mr Bolton, Mr Pompeo and the Pentagon. Military officials have warned against escalating the confrontation, even as Mr Bolton ordered the Pentagon to present options to send as many as 120,000 troops to the middle east to respond to Iranian provocations” (Trump tells Pentagon chief he does not want war with Iran by Mark Landler, Maggie Haberman and Eric Schmitt, New York Times, 16 May 2019)

So irritated has Trump become with Bolton’s hawkish extremism that during his state visit to Japan recently he openly criticised his national security adviser.

“The disparity was on stark display during Mr Trump’s four-day visit to Japan that ended Tuesday, after he contradicted Mr Bolton on high-stakes confrontations with both Iran and north Korea. The president declared that, unlike his national security adviser, he was not seeking regime change in Iran and he asserted that, contrary to what Mr Bolton had said, recent north Korean missile tests did not violate United Nations resolutions.”

Although Bolton consistently plays the ‘bad cop’, Trump does seem very inconsistent in the ‘good cop’ role that he likes to assume: “the president … at times seems to be on both sides of the issues that consume the national security team – one day threatening to wipe Iran off the map, the next day inviting it for talks”. (Trump undercuts Bolton on north Korea and Iran by Peter Baker and Maggie Haberman, New York Times, 28 May 2019)

It was only a week earlier that he had been threatening that the US would destroy the Islamic Republic were there to be a war. Nevertheless, in practice, he appears to have been keeping his hawks well in check, so that, although there have been a great many threats and provocations, actual war has yet to be unleashed.