Lies, Damned Lies and their Consequences
Over 50 years ago, the Johnson Administration told a pack of lies about Vietnam that resulted in the Tonkin Gulf Resolution and years of bloody and ultimately unsuccessful American intervention in Vietnam. An American public raised on the religion of anti-communism bought these lies for a time, but ultimately revolted and forced the liars from elected office.
Nearly 20 years ago, the Bush Administration told a pack of lies about Iraq that led to the Iraq War Resolution, and a never-ending war of destabilizing American intervention in the Middle East. An American public traumatized by the terrorist attacks of 9/11 bought the lies for a time, but ultimately revolted and forced the liars from elected office.
President Trump is well known for his casual adherence to the truth. Mohammed Ben Salman, the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, likewise is well known for his falsehoods. So is Prime Minister Netanyahu of Israel. The Iranian regime is equally well-known for its lies, damned lies and military adventurism.
So what are we to make of the ship attacks in the Strait of Hormuz? Iran is the obvious suspect, and its Revolutionary Guard is perceived as the likely perpetrator. Saudi Arabia and Israel are the regional cheerleaders for a US intervention. National Security Advisor Bolton and Secretary of State Pompeo are the prime US proponents of US military action and regime change in Iran. What an absurd cast of characters with zero credibility and exceedingly poor judgment.
But let’s step back for a moment. In 1953, the US intervened in Iran to remove the democratically elected government of Prime Minister Mossadegh who had nationalized Iran’s oil industry from the British and American oil interests. We had installed Shah Reza Palavi on the Peacock Throne beginning in 1941 until his overthrow in 1979. Over time he turned from being a progressive reformer and modernizer of a fast growing economy, a friend of Israel and bulwark against Soviet expansionism, until towards the end before his overthrow he became the autocrat and torturer, killer and jailer of his political opponents for which he is best remembered in Iran to this day. He was replaced by Ayatollah Khomeini, and the religious elite of various stripes has ruled Iran ever since with their own version of autocratic theocracy. They were opposed to the Shah’s religious and cultural modernism, his friendly relations with the West and Israel. They included leaders from the left and right who opposed the Shah, but agreed on little else.
The Iranian student movements took hostages of the US diplomats. The US helped Saddam Hussein and Iraq attack Iran. The US placed an oil and trade embargo on Iran. Iran began to develop nuclear weapons to threaten Israel. Iran elected a variety of reformist Presidents who sought better relations with the US; the Revolutionary Guard and most conservative religious leaders did all they could to forestall any improvement in relations that would undercut the legitimacy of their crusade against the Great Satan.
President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry sought to break this mutually reinforcing cycle and eventually negotiated a deal constraining Iran’s nuclear development and ending the embargo on its oil. There were six partners to the deal, including Russia, China, the US, the EU and Iran.
Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and the Saudis were critics of the deal from the inception because it did not constrain Iran’s adventurism in the Middle East. At the most basic level, Iran has been the champion of Shia dominance in Lebanon, Syria and Iraq. The Saudis have been the champions of the Sunni oil-rich nations and their allies in the Persian Gulf and elsewhere. As a result, the two sides are fighting through proxies in Yemen, Syria and elsewhere in the region. The Strait of Hormuz is a very narrow part of the Persian Gulf through which much of the global oil trade passes, and it is bordered by both sides of the religious divide.
President Trump, egged on by the Saudis and Netanyahu, has withdrawn from the nuclear anti-proliferation pact inked by his predecessor with the Iranians and re-imposed oil sanctions quite aggressively seeking to bring the Iranian economy to its knees. The EU, Russia and China as well as the recently ousted Secretaries of Defense and State have sought to point out that the Iranians have been complying fully with their parts of the bargain, and it’s time to pursue diplomacy for any additional desired changes.
Recently, President Trump sent the US fleet and troops to the Middle East and inked an advanced arms deal with the Saudis over the objections of most members of Congress who must approve such deals. Some members of Congress, such as Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas, appear itching for a fight. Recently, Iran has threatened to reopen its nuclear development ambitions and withdraw from its agreements that the US has already abrogated. Some in the Iranian Revolutionary Guards and elsewhere in the Iranian theocracy are also itching for a renewed but limited fight to cement their internal control.
One would hope that the remaining mentally competent members of both regimes would stand down, re-institute the already agreed upon pact among the parties, and negotiate for greater stability and economic improvements throughout the Middle East region. The alternatives look absolutely horrific at this point.
Prepared by: Lucien Wulsin