Mike Pompeo formally blamed the explosions on two tankers – one Japanese, one Norwegian - in the Straits of Hormuz on the Iranians. Are we to believe him?
The US released video footage of what they say was an Iranian naval boat recovering an un-exploded limpet mine from the side of one of the tankers. The video appeared to have been made in daylight, most likely from an observation drone or plane.
Oddly, the chief executive of the company that owned the Japanese tanker, Mr Yutaka Katada, contradicted the American claim that the explosion was caused by limpet mines. He stated that the explosions were caused by an airborne object that struck the side of the Japanese tanker and stated that the crew of the ship had witnessed the airborne object flying into the side of the ship with their own eyes.
Someone is not telling the truth.
The extraordinary thing about the attack on a Japanese tanker is that the Japanese prime minister, Mr Abe, was visiting Tehran at the time of the attack seeking to defuse the American-Iranian standoff.
Could the Iranian government have the stupidity to attack a Japanese tanker in the course of Mr Abe’s visit? What possible advantage could be gained by doing so? Trump was tweeting criticism of Mr Abe for visiting Tehran.
If the limpet mine recovery story is untrue, as it appears to be, what weight can be attached to the US claim that its intelligence agencies attributed the attack to Iran? Did the video merely show Iranians examining the damage caused by the airborne object witnessed by the crew?
There is of course the possibility that Iranian paramilitaries carried out the attack without the authority of the Iranian government.
But the Americans also claimed that the attacks were carried out by a “state actor”.
The old question of “Cui Bono?” arises now. In whose interest is an attack of this kind at this juncture?
Well we know that the facts are entirely consistent with Saudi involvement. They have everything to gain from a retaliatory military strike by the US against the Iranians.
That they are capable of such a stratagem is undoubted. Their murderous leader, Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, has demonstrated that he can and will use secretive, unlawful and barbarous methods in the way he had Jamal Khashoggi murdered, butchered, and disposed of in his consulate in Istanbul.
Moreover, he later tried to cover up his personal involvement in that infamous act by pretending that it was done spontaneously by rogue elements in his personal security apparatus.
Trump rewarded him by pretending to accept his grotesque cover story. He put arms sales to the corrupt House of Saud above all and any values of international law or morality. He had previously demeaned the Saudis by pointing out that they “wouldn’t last three weeks” without American backing.
The Saudis badly want the Americans to wage war on Iran. So also do the Israeli government led by its corrupt Prime Minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, a closet ally of the House of Saud.
John Bolton, a Trump national security advisor, has openly advocated war with Iran. US forces have been moved to the Gulf to deter aggression by Iran. Pompeo has now pointed the finger of blame at Iran. A perfect tinder box for conflict exists in the wake of the unilateral denunciation by the US of the Iranian nuclear deal and the Trump-imposed sanctions on Iran.
If the US is looking for “state actors” who might have planned and executed the attacks on the two tankers, the White House should look a lot closer to home in every sense of that phrase.
Trump is an international embarrassment and disgrace. He has surrounded himself with utterly untrustworthy cronies and hawks. His initiatives in North Korea have failed to denuclearize the Korean peninsula. His support for Juan Guaidó in Venezuela is faltering.
I have consistently warned in this column that he will not be happy until he has used his military toy-box on some weaker state. I have watched the turning of the screw on Iran. It is done at the behest of Netanyahu and the Saudis. If there is to be war, it will be triggered by a pretext such as the “flying limpet mines”. Bolton, Pompeo and Trump are war-mongers.
Under Trump, the old adage that diplomacy is war by every other means has never been more apt.
The US is in the hands of a dangerous and brutish demagogue who considers that any other part of the world – Europe, China, Mexico and the Middle East – can legitimately be controlled by unilateral economic sanctions. That is his way to make America great again.
Trump hates the EU simply because it is economically strong enough to resist domination by US sanctions. That is why he encourages Brexit and other European movements bent on weakening the EU. Farage and Johnson are lining up to be his economic Quislings.
And if, as looks very likely, Boris Johnson becomes the next UK premier, he will be wholly in the hands of Trump in the same Robin and Batman relationship that fatefully compromised Tony Blair at Bush’s ranch in Dawson, Texas, when they plotted the Iraq war and later fabricated an intelligence-based pretext for that infamous war which destabilized the whole Middle East and led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians.
Encouraging Johnson not to pay the UK’s debts to the EU is part of his negative wrecking-ball diplomacy. The US-UK so-called “special relationship” will quickly turn into a relationship of master and servant if Johnson leads a UK no-deal crash-out from the EU.
Turning to our own affairs, Jeffrey Donaldson came whinging to Dublin, asking the Irish government to cut the DUP and its Tory allies some slack on the back-stop issue. He claims to want an open border. But he can’t explain how it can co-exist with the UK having a WTO-terms trading relationship with the EU. If there is an alternative to the backstop, let him show us what it is and how it works. After all, he and his colleagues have had three years to square that particular circle. Perhaps he and his colleagues in the DUP should have thought of that before they supported Brexit and sent dubious funding to support the Leave campaign in Britain.
The DUP should reflect on one thing. When Boris gets into No 10, he will, like Theresa May, start to plan how to have a general election designed to exploit the un-electability of Jeremy Corbyn. The likelihood of the DUP holding the balance of power again after such an election – no matter how it goes – is close to zilch.
The Tories are, as they always have been, focused on one thing only – saving their seats and the unity of their party. If Boris sees off Farage, he will see off the DUP with a sigh of relief. The DUP’s role in bringing him into office will be instantly forgotten, if he gets the chance. Then they will be in a lonely and forlorn state all of their own making – especially if there is a no-deal Brexit.