Trump Admin Has a Serious Credibility Problem on Iran

Two tankers with petrochemical products were attacked while crossing the Gulf of Oman this past week. Coming only a few days after Trump sanctioned Iran’s petrochemical exports points to Iran’s involvement.

Despite the obvious lack of knowledge of who or what caused the incident Secretary Pompeo lost no time in immediately blaming Iran: “It is the assessment of the U.S. government that Iran is responsible for today’s attacks in the Gulf of Oman. These attacks are a threat to international peace and security, a blatant assault on the freedom of navigation, and an unacceptable escalation of tension by Iran.” The language Pompeo used was less than compelling. The assessment is based on intelligence, the weapons used, the level of expertise needed to execute the operation, recent similar Iranian attacks on shipping, and the fact that no proxy group operating in the area has the sources and proficiency to act with such a high degree of sophistication.”

He has not yet produced that evidence. It was an egregious mistake to let Secretary of State Mike Pompeo make the initial accusation against Iran. First, Pompeo is on record as supporting regime change in Tehran; for him to come forth—instead of a more relevant figure, such as the secretary of defense or the director of national intelligence—infuses the charge with bias.

The Trump administration then published a grainy black and white video which it says shows an Iranian Search and Rescue crew removing an unexploded limpet mine from one of the tankers. No mine in visible in the video. The Iranian crew seems to inspect the damage on the tanker.

The U.S. itself admits that the video was taken several hours after the incident. The U.S. also says that one of its ships was nearby. Why did it take no steps to remove the claimed mine itself?

These theories (and that’s all they are, at this point) suggest that the attack was launched to provoke an American overreaction, which might trigger a war. Or, if Khamenei knew the attacks were coming, he might have condoned them as a preemptive measure, a warning to the United States—which he believes is preparing for war—that Iran will counter its aggression. (Rouhani has previously warned that Iran could respond to U.S. military action by closing the Strait of Hormuz, a narrow but major waterway for global oil traffic.)

Meanwhile the owner of the Kokuka Courageous, one of the stricken ships, said that the damage to its ship was not caused by mines but by drones:

Two “flying objects” damaged a Japanese tanker owned by Kokuka Sangyo Co in an attack on Thursday in the Gulf of Oman, but there was no damage to the cargo of methanol, the company president said on Friday.

“The crew told us something came flying at the ship, and they found a hole,” Katada said. “Then some crew witnessed the second shot.”

Katada also rejected speculation that the tanker, which sailed under the flag of Panama, was attacked because it was a Japanese owned vessel:

“Unless very carefully examined, it would be hard to tell the tanker was operated or owned by Japanese,” he said.

Iran pushed back:

Javad Zarif @JZarif – 12:11 UTC – 14 Jun 2019

That the US immediately jumped to make allegations against Iran—w/o a shred of factual or circumstantial evidence—only makes it abundantly clear that the #B_Team is moving to a #PlanB: Sabotage diplomacy—including by @AbeShinzo—and cover up its #EconomicTerrorism against Iran.

The “B-team” includes Trump’s National Security Advisor John Bolton, Israel’s Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahoo, Mohammad bin Salman of Saudi Arabia and Mohammed bin Zayed of the UAE.

To say that the attacks were provocations by the U.S. or its Middle East allies is made easier by their evident ruthlessness. Any accusations by the Trump administration of Iranian culpability is easily dismissed because everyone knows that Trump and his crew are notorious liars.

The damage on the starboard side of the ship, facing south, i.e. Oman and UAE, as they were leaving the gulf not coming in. That means that the “flying objects, hitting the hull above water had to come from a South-North trajectory. A bit difficult to do for Iranians on the north side.

If they can produce the video of the supposed “mine rescue”, surely, they can produce the video and tracking the drones coming from the port side. Not likely.

Limpet mines work by harnessing the mass of surrounding water to channel the explosion into the hull. Placing one above the waterline is pointless, the explosion would just pop outwards. We are told all these mines have been placed by experts in their field.

Ingenious, but impossible. No way would Iran do this at the exact moment when the Japanese PM had come to Tehran and was sitting down for wide-ranging discussions.

The fact that Mainstream Media reported this obvious false flag as if it was factual without even a rebuttal from anyone with a half a brain is beyond infuriating.

‘Iran did do it,’ Trump told Fox & Friends on Friday, adding that his administration is ‘going to see how to stop’ the regime from similar actions.

Hawks in the administration’s orbit, such as the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies and the People’s Mujahideen of Iran (MEK), will no doubt be salivating at a chance to resuscitate the primaveral zeitgeist —the moment last spring when the Trump administration designated Iran’s elite military force the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps a terrorist organization. The hawks hoped that the designation would be the coup de grace in a two-year march to isolate the Islamic Republic from the global community.

Trump may now resume his previous hard line, but it’ll be messy. His administration is chock full of regime-changers, but the president, as he repeatedly insists, is no fan of regime change. ‘I’m not looking to hurt the country, but they can’t have a nuclear weapon. It’s that simple,’ Trump told Fox & Friends on Friday. The moderate contradiction between what Trump says and what many senior aides emphasize could not be clearer.

The sad fact is he must make a case because, in his 2½ years in office, he has told so many lies and alienated so many allies. If he decided to respond to the attacks with new economic pressure or military action, he would need the support of those allies, and to earn that support, he would need to present extraordinarily persuasive evidence of Iran’s culpability.

Clearer still is that Trump does not like to look a fool. Iranian aggression infuriates the commander-in-chief: further threats toward the US would be the ‘end of Iran’, he said last month. This sensitivity provides an opening for Trump’s more entrepreneurial aides, notably Ambassador Bolton. In 2017, Bolton, then a civilian, wrote in National Review on his idea of preparations for policy after the end of JCPOA (the ‘Iran Deal’): ‘With Israel and selected others, we will discuss military options.’

The public and media, burnt by the intelligence failures of the Iraq War, no longer trust statements from the intelligence agencies — or video from Central Command, for that matter.

So, Trump is not trusted. The intelligence agencies are not trusted. Then add to this, questions about the credibility of Pompeo’s and you have an even bigger credibility gap.

Earlier this year, when Pompeo considered tagging the IRGC as a “foreign terrorist organization,” senior U.S. military officers argued against the move on the grounds that it might open U.S. forces in the region to violent action by Iran. Pompeo took the step, despite this opposition; the Iranians haven’t yet attacked U.S. forces (or anything belonging to the United States), but, if they did attack the tankers, it might be a prelude to more—just as the officers predicted.

Trump has said he doesn’t want war with Iran. He recently told reporters he wanted the Iranian leaders to call him; he even gave his phone number to Swiss officials, who have served as an intermediary between Washington and Tehran in past eras of tension. When Abe saw Khamenei in Iran, he handed him a letter from Trump. (Khamenei told Abe he had no interest in any message from the current occupant of the White House.) I think Trump has a serious credibility problem. It will be difficult for Khamenei ‘believe’ the content of Trump’s letter. No?

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