The Countdown Continues
Israel supplied the pretext for the looming war on Iran. Next, it could light the actual fuse.
It is still unclear what the information was that the Israelis gave the US about an imminent Iranian threat to its interests in Iraq, prompting it to rush the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln, a fleet of missile ships and a posse of giant B-52 bombers to the Gulf region. But all the signs indicate that the Trump administration has taken this supposed intelligence fully on board regardless of whether it is true or false, and is heading for war.
The Mossad reportedly passed on a report claiming that the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and allied Iraqi groups such as the Hashd ash-Shaabi(Popular Mobilisation) were preparing to mount attacks against American troops who are deployed in over 30 locations in Iraq, from al-Anbar to Kurdistan. This explains the surprise four-hour visit paid to Baghdad on Tuesday by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, where he met President Barham Saleh and Prime Minister Adel Abdelmahdi.
Pompeo declared he had obtained a commitment from the two men that US interests (meaning forces) in their country would be provided with adequate protection. But there was no statement by Iraqi officials confirming such a commitment or explaining the true purpose of Pompeo’s visit.
We know neither how accurate this Israeli intelligence information is, nor why the US administration took it seriously and began mobilising its forces for war. What we do know is that the administration, whose president has been ranting against ‘fake news’ for the past three years, wanted to believe it, as it was provided by his friend Benjamin Netanyahu. It would not be surprising if Trump arranged for him to supply it as a pretext. Having failed to use his blockade to halt Iran’s oil experts or frighten its leaders into re-negotiating the nuclear agreement and raising the white flag, he simply wants war.
Trump has become captive to his national security advisor, John Bolton, one of the most virulent advocates of war with Iran. He has a long history of lying and of exaggerating intelligence to serve his agenda and justify the use of force against Tehran, either directly or via Israel. Since 2015 he has been saying that the only way to end the Iranian nuclear threat is to achieve regime change in Tehran via an American-backed assault. A year and a half ago he was guest of honour at a Mojahedin-e-Khalq rally in Paris, and promised his audience he would attend the group’s next anniversary celebration in the Iranian capital.
On Wednesday, President Hassan Rohani announced Iran would suspend its compliance with some of the provisions of the nuclear deal. He gave the European signatories two months to live up to their obligation to lift sanctions against his country, especially in the oil and banking sectors and warned that if they failed to do so it would resume uranium enrichment at full capacity without restraint. This was a prudent position to take, reflecting a peaceful strategy aimed at avoiding a military confrontation. But it is doubtful that the Europeans will be responsive. They do not have the means to put pressure on the Trump administration, nor the power or even the will to oppose its sanctions in an effective and practical manner.
The war-drum beating will continue and grow louder in the days and weeks to come, and it is not unlikely that the ignition spark will come at the hands of the Mossad too in one way or another.
To elaborate: The Mossad has a long history of dirty tricks, dating from the 1950s when it planted bombs in Baghdad and Egypt to prompt local Jews to flee to occupied Palestine. What if it were to ‘fabricate’ an attack on US forces in Iraq, or Saudi or Emirati targets in the Gulf? Responsibility could then be claimed by some unknown group claiming to be pro-Iranian, to prompt Trump to declare war.
Iran has the right to defend itself with all the means at its disposal and stand up to this provocative American arrogance. It has a military capability. The US may be more powerful, but it would sustain massive losses which it would not be able to withstand.
We must ask: Didn’t it pull out of Iraq in defeat after invading and occupying the country with utmost ease, costing its treasury trillions of dollars in the process? Didn’t it lose its war in Afghanistan, and beg for talks with the Taliban to facilitate the escape of its forces? Didn’t it fail in its regime-change venture in Syria, in which yet more tens of billions of dollars were invested?
Arab and Islamic peoples have shown a readiness to fight regardless of the balance of power when their national pride is affronted. The recent war in the Gaza Strip, with its tiny territory but immense resolve, is the latest example. The Iranian people, or the vast majority, will certainly be no different if war is forced on them.