US ‘spat’ with Iran, is not about Iran – it’s about China

It’s no secret, there have been multiple articles in papers this past week explaining to those that are interested that Trump’s policy towards Iran is about China (not Iran). The idea here is to send a signal to China that the U.S. can ‘close’ off the Persian Gulf and threaten its energy supply.

In a world of global financial markets, 5G networks and cyberwar, geography still rules. The two shipping lanes in the Strait of Hormuz, each two miles wide, hold the key to the Persian Gulf and roughly half of the world’s proven oil reserves and production capacity. It also represents over 60% of China’s energy imports.

Not far from the Straits of Hormuz, in the southwestern corner of Pakistan, and close to the Iranian border is a state-of-the-art container port at Gwadar, which China has financed. Beijing hopes this port will eventually link up with roads, railways and pipelines to western China. And from Gwadar, the Chinese can monitor shipping traffic through the Strait of Hormuz.

The Chinese are now contemplating the construction of a naval base nearby, adjacent to the Iranian border. More crucially, the Gulf of Oman has become more than just a waterway for oil that America, with its shale gas revolution, requires less and less of. It is a hinge uniting the Middle East, the Indian subcontinent and East Asia in China’s Belt and Road Initiative.

The Chinese are also engaged in trade and infrastructure building there. Gwadar is central to the maritime aspect of the Belt and Road Initiative, but China’s interest in Iran is about /both/ land and sea. The routes that China has already built across Central Asia link China with Iran — an unbeatable combination in Eurasia, where Iran is a demographic and geographic organizing point – i.e. the node.

Very simply, the U.S. wants to control the straits of Hormuz Not Iran. In the long run, the U.S. also wants to control Iran. The U.S. has many plans on the table to make this happen. The president is reportedly reviewing Pentagon war plans for an invasion of Iran.

There are multiple plans. One plan calls for the buildup of 120,000 U.S. troops into the region in a strange replay of the Iraq War of 2003.

Another plan on the table is to have a limited invasion of Iran’s Qeshm island and put a toll gate on the straits of Hormuz. And use the toll gate to control who gets energy! And who sells energy! Qeshm Island is the largest island in the Strait of Hormuz and in the Persian Gulf. With an area of 1445 km2, a circumference of approximately 362 km, and a length of 122 km, the northern coast of the island is covered with mangrove forests. Qeshm island is located along the Iranian mainland, at one point only about 1.8 km distant from the mainland, and Qeshm City is about 22 km from Bandar Abbas. Interestingly, the Chinese provided Iran with Chinese HY-2 “Silkworm” anti-ship missiles that have been deployed along the Iranian coast of the Persian Gulf, on Abu Musa island, on Qeshm Island and on Sirri Island.

Another plan on the table is to precipitate regime change in Iran. Consistent with this policy is US support for the MEK in Albania (a cultish Iranian opposition force of Marxist-Islamists, who have been on Saudi Arabia’s payroll for years after Saddam Hussein’s downfall [who previously bankrolled them]).  According to Karen Kwiatkowski, formerly with the Department of Defense: “MEK is ready to do things over which we would be ashamed, and over which we try to keep silent. But for such tasks we’ll use them.” (For both these quotes, see “U.S. Government’s Secret Plans for Iran,” by Markus Schmidt, John Goetz, WDR TV, Germany, February 3, 2005). The MEK has been involved in killing Iranian nuclear scientists and most recently in bombing tankers in the Persian Gulf (and making it seem like it’s the Iranian government doing this). The problem with this plan, is that ordinary Iranians hate the MEK and are united with the Mullahs (if you can believe that in resisting any take over that would involve the MEK). It’s a ridiculous strategy.

But by supporting tanker bombings, the U.S. is basically signaling China that even if they don’t invade Qeshm, they can influence shipping in the region via its surrogate ‘terrorists’!

None of this bodes well in Tehran or Beijing. Quite simply, if I can sit here and read articles on the internet and figure out what the U.S. government is doing, doesn’t the Trump administration think that Tehran and Beijing have figured this out too?

None of this is in the long-term interests of the U.S.

Its too slimy and underhanded. It makes the U.S. seem unreliable and untrustworthy – like Trump himself. This will affect our reputation and prestige for a long time to come. And, there is fundamentally no need to resort to these types of tactics to get a deal! Its all makes Trump look ridiculous.

While the United States contemplates a war with Iran, the Chinese are engaged in a long-term plan to build trade and infrastructure across the region. The routes that China has already built across Central Asia link not only China with Iran — but an unbeatable combination in Eurasia and eventually directly to Europe. China is already Iran’s largest trading partner. Iran too, is slated to join the SCO (Shanghai Cooperation Organization) which would pit Iran directly in a military alliance with China (and Russia).

The Mullahs and Xi are too shrewd. They know too well that if the Persian Gulf is shut down, it would also spell catastrophe for the U.S. too. This is a dangerous game. In the end, the Chinese and Iranians, will call out Trump’s bluff. They will simply by-pass the U.S. and it will lead to a complete isolation of the U.S. globally. Its simply idiotic.

Successive US administrations have successfully pushed Iran from a military alliance with the U.S. and a member of CENTO (remember that?) to a military alliance with China and Russia.

Trump has no real idea how to draw Iran back into an American sphere of influence. He has no real idea how to draw China into a meaningful partner with the U.S. None of the ideas the Trump administration has, are practical, or address the fundamental strategic issues. There is no underlying strategy. He is painting himself into a corner (where the Israelis and Saudi Arabians want), where the only option left is a full-scale war with Iran. And that, by all accounts, would be ridiculous and not in the interests of the U.S. None of this has been thought through.

As so many commentators keep saying U.S. is playing checkers while the Iranians and Chinese are playing Chess!

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