Teddy Roosevelt once described his approach to foreign affairs as speaking softly while carrying a big stick. Over the past few days, Donald Trump apparently came close to using that stick, but he wound up speaking softly. It seems to me that he made a wise choice.
Iran is being crippled financially by our sanctions. Its proxy fighters in places like Yemen and Syria have been taking beatings from our allies. Iran’s power and influence are not on the rise.
So why would Iran attack shipping and shoot down a U.S. drone? Desperation?
I don’t think so. The Iranians may be testing the limits to see what they can get away with. Or they may be in such a cash bind that they’ll try anything to raise the price of oil. But oil shipments through the Persian Gulf are no longer a direct concern to Trump because his policies have resulted in America becoming a net oil exporter. These days, it’s China, Vietnam, and Japan who are reliant on oil from the Gulf.
A pinprick attack in retaliation for shooting down a reconnaissance drone wouldn’t have caused enough damage to the mullahs and the Revolutionary Guards to curb their ambitions, so speaking softly (but firmly) probably was wise.
One of these days, the Iranians will do something too costly to be disregarded. Then it will be time for the stick.
Two tankers have been attacked in the Gulf of Oman, the body of water just outside the Strait of Hormuz and the Persian Gulf. One is Norwegian-owned, the other is Japanese-owned, but both are sailing under second country flags. The U. S. Navy says that it received distress calls from the vessels at 6:12 am and 7:00 am local time this morning. The Navy says it is helping to evacuate tankers, and the shipping companies says the crews of both ships are safe.
There have been reports that the Norwegian-owned ship was torpedoed. The Iranian Student’s News Agency has tweeted pictures of one of the ships which show it burning at the water line which is consistent with either a torpedo strike or hitting a floating mine. A missile strike would probably have a higher point of impact.
If torpedoes were used, that would imply a state or state-sponsored attacker. Thus far, no one has claimed responsibility, and the Iranians have denied any connection, pointing out that Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe currently visiting in Tehran.
The price of oil is up today. The cost of these attacks is yet to be determined.
UPDATE—These tanker attacks occurred a week after a mysterious fire in the Iranian port of Shahid Rajaee destroyed four Iranian merchant ships and damaged two others. The Shahid Rajaee fire occurred one day after the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and Norway—whose ships were attacked near Fujairah, UAE, on 12 May, 2019—submitted a report to the U. N. Security Council about the attacks on their vessels.
That would be the charitable way of categorizing Congresscritter Rashida Tlaib’s (D-MI) statement that her “Palestinian” ancestors provided a safe haven for Jews fleeing the Holocaust.
First, there were no “Palestinians” during the Holocaust or the immediate aftermath. The arabs living in Palestine during the Ottoman Empire and the British Mandate called themselves “Arabs.” No one referred to them as “Palestinians” until after Israel had survived being invaded by multiple Arab armies in 1948.
Second, even if she used the term “Palestinian” proleptically, the arabs almost universally opposed Jewish immigration into the region, and they did so violently for the half-century prior to the founding of the State of Israel. And in 1967, and in 1973, and in …
Of course, it could be that Tlaib really believes the Palestinian propaganda version of Near Eastern history, but I don’t think so. I believe she knows the truth, but it doesn’t fit her narrative. Her response to outrage over her statements has been to double down with a statement repeating the lie that Palestinians welcomed Jewish refugees.
Not even CNN is buying it.
The Times of Israel has an article up about recent intelligence operations directed against Iran.
Iranian infrastructure and strategic networks have come under attack in the last few days by a computer virus similar to Stuxnet but “more violent, more advanced and more sophisticated,” and Israeli officials are refusing to discuss what role, if any, they may have had in the operation, an Israeli TV report said Wednesday.
The report came hours after Israel said its Mossad intelligence agency had thwarted an Iranian murder plot in Denmark, and two days after Iran acknowledged that President Hassan Rouhani’s mobile phone had been bugged. It also follows a string of Israeli intelligence coups against Iran, including the extraction from Tehran in January by the Mossad of the contents of a vast archive documenting Iran’s nuclear weapons program, and the detailing by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the UN in September of other alleged Iranian nuclear and missile assets inside Iran, in Syria and in Lebanon.
And Reuters reports that the Iranians have sorta/kinda fessed up on the computer virus attack.
Gholamreza Jalali, head of Iran’s civil defense agency, said on Sunday that Iran had recently neutralized a new version of Stuxnet.
“Recently we discovered a new generation of Stuxnet which consisted of several parts … and was trying to enter our systems,” Jalali was quoted as saying by the semi-official ISNA news agency at a news conference marking Iran’s civil defense day. He did not give further details.
Sounds like some folks at the Mossad have been earning their pay.
Ahmed Abu Khattala, 47, a Libyan national, was sentenced Wednesday to 22 years in prison on federal terrorism charges for the deadly 2012 attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya.
At this point, what difference does it make?
Richard Fernandez has a post over at PJ Media taking a look a what could be the beginnings of a new cold war.
Without fanfare elements of a new cold war are being put into place by the Trump administration, the European Union and China. Although the disconnected components separately make headlines, the underlying pattern is evident despite the carnival-like distractions of the Mueller investigation and the reluctance to declare the old order dead.
The generation that ran the world in 1914 sent their sons to die in what came to be called “The Great War,” and then they mismanaged the peace. In 1939, the generation that fought The Great War sent their sons to World War II. The lessons they had learned didn’t keep us out of another war, but the resulting Cold War was in most ways less brutal than WWII.
The West won the Cold War, but our leaders have mismanaged the Cold Peace. Now, a new generation may be facing Cold War II. If we’re lucky.
McClean’s has a post up that looks at the current uprisings in Iran through the eyes of Iranian immigrants in Canada.
As for what the future holds, this is where Sharooz and Mohyeddin part ways.
Mohyeddin is filled with optimism, convinced that the darkness that descended upon Iran in 1979 will soon be lifted, and that the Iranian people will not allow the regime to resort to the barbarism and genocide Bashar Assad has unleashed upon the Syrian people for their impudence in demanding democracy. “The regime would never dare do what Assad did,” she said. “They just wouldn’t dare.”
Sharooz said he wants to believe that, but he just can’t.
“This is not going to have a happy ending. I can’t imagine that. This is a regime that is not going to give up power without a fight. The moment that they feel their power is threatened they will unleash any violence that they can to maintain that hold on power. The ending to this story, whether it’s two years from now or five years from now, it’s going to be bloody.”
Read the whole thing.
For now, I don’t see any reason to doubt Sharooz’s view. Unless the uprisings fizzle soon, I believe it is likely that the mullahs will inflict on their people what they have done in Syria. I hope things do not proceed as I foresee.