A new U.S. war of aggression in the Middle East was narrowly averted. If President Trump’s account is to be believed, the operation to launch military strikes on Iran had already started when Trump decided to call it off at the last minute. “We were cocked & loaded to retaliate last night on 3 different sights when I asked, how many will die. 150 people, sir, was the answer from a General. 10 minutes before the strike I stopped it, not proportionate to shooting down an unmanned drone.”
The notion that Trump called off military strikes out of concern for 150 Iranian lives stretches the imagination. This is especially true when Trump threatens Iran with “obliteration like you’ve never seen before.” To the U.S. government, at the services of giant banks and mega corporations, lives, especially those of people from oppressed nations, are of no concern. Trump can hardly be accused of being a humanitarian exception to a long line of U.S. presidents with the blood of thousands or millions of victims of imperialist aggression on their hands.
As we look at the possibility of a U.S. war on Iran, it is important to remember that the number of Iraqis who lost their lives, either killed directly at the hands of the U.S. or its mercenary contractors or indirectly as a result of the abhorrent conditions brought upon by the U.S. occupation, was in the millions.
The Lancet, a prestigious and well-known medical journal, published two studies on the casualties of the Iraq war. The second, published in October 2006, estimated 654,965 “excess deaths” between May 20, 2003, the launch of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, and July 10, 2006. This estimate covered only the first three years of an eight-year occupation. There are studies that put the death toll even higher.
What triggered the most recent near-war crisis was that Iran shot down a drone over the Strait of Hormuz. According to Iran’s Foreign Minister Zarif: “At 00:14 US drone took off from UAE in stealth mode & violated Iranian airspace. It was targeted at 04:05 at the coordinates (25°59’43”N 57°02’25”E) near Kouh-e Mobarak. We’ve retrieved sections of the US military drone in OUR territorial waters where it was shot down.” The U.S. contradicts this account: “U.S. Central Command can confirm that a U.S. Navy Broad Area Maritime Surveillance (or BAMS-D) ISR aircraft was shot down by an Iranian surface-to-air missile system while operating in international airspace over the Strait of Hormuz.”
It is agreed by both parties that the incident took place over the Strait of Hormuz. The Strait of Hormuz connects the Persian Gulf with the Sea of Oman. At its narrowest point, it is only 21 miles wide, of which only 6 miles are navigable. A distance of 12 nautical miles (14 miles) off the shore of any country is considered part of its territory. This means that, at its narrowest point, the Strait has no international water; all of it is territorial waters of Iran to the north and Oman to the south. The air over a country’s waters are considered part of its airspace.
Whether the drone was shot down in Iranian air space or on international waters is impossible to determine independently. Nor is possible to determine with certainty whether this was a deliberate provocation on the part of the U.S. or the outcome of two militaries operating at close distances to each other during a time of extremely high tensions.
However, it is not difficult to establish the overall geopolitical landscape and the motives of both sides. The drone was an RQ-4A Global Hawk, “a $220 million UAV that acts as a massive surveillance platform in the sky.” This is a drone that can fly at a maximum “altitude of 19.8km (65,000 feet), hovering up the electromagnetic spectrum, searching for targets and being able to scan an area larger than the size of Greece in 24 hours.”
If not specifically to provoke a reaction from Iran, why would the U.S. need to take this drone, a drone that can fly at 65,000 feet, right up to the barely existing international air space over the Strait of Hormuz? How would the U.S. military react if another country, while threatening the obliteration of the U.S., flew “routine surveillance” missions right at, near, or over U.S. air territory? If an Iranian Navy vessel were spotted in the Atlantic Ocean, even thousands of miles away, the U.S. would surely characterize that as another aggression by the belligerent Iranians.
Iran, on the other hand, has been put in an impossible position. The U.S. government, and to a lesser extent all Western media and governments, condemn Iran as aggressive when it defends itself against various forms of aggression. If Iran lets violations of its territory slide, U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and other war hawks will be in Trump’s ears, telling him that Iran will not have the courage to react if the U.S. bombs them. Already, in direct violation of the JCPOA, which the U.S. signed under President Obama, the U.S. is waging an economic war on Iran.
Who is the aggressor?
Most of the corporate media, including liberal outlets, falsely portray this as a confrontation between the U.S., attempting to maintain peace and stability against a belligerent, aggressive, uncompromising, rogue state. Some outlets may question the Trump administration’s tactics, but do not question a decades-long policy of direct intervention, including installing the Shah in power in a coup that overthrew the democratic government of Iran in 1953. The fact is that Iran did negotiate and sign the JCPOA, and, by all accounts, has observed all the terms of the agreement, as certified time and again by the International Atomic Energy Agency. To this day, over a year since Trump illegally pulled out of the JCPOA and imposed even harsher sanctions than before, Iran has still abided by the terms of that agreement.
This is not a battle of two equals, with each of the two sides threatening the other. Iran is not a wild animal that needs to be handled better by Trump. This is about the strongest military force in the history of the world threatening an oppressed country with total obliteration. Long before the time of the presidency of George Bush II, who put the nuclear obliteration of Iran as an “option on the table,” Iran was living under U.S. aggression. The U.S. is sanctioning Iran and making it nearly impossible for it to trade in the international market. The U.S. is threatening to overthrow Iran, with Bolton and Pompeo not even diplomatically hiding their intent of regime change. Iran is literally surrounded by U.S. military bases on all sides.
As the ANSWER Coalition (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism) and many other forces in the anti-war movement holds actions and mobilizes to prevent a war on Iran, it is not impossible to avoid provocations that can lead to a catastrophic all-out war. Iran cannot move away from where it is. But the U.S. can certainly move its Navy, fighter jets, drones and military personnel away from provocative positions. Better yet, the U.S. can take all of its forces out of the Middle East, where it has brought nothing but death and destruction on a mass scale.
It is imperative that anti-war forces around the world demand that the Trump administration end the sanctions, military exercises, threats and other provocations against Iran. NO WAR ON IRAN!