"Is War With Iran “Almost Assured”?
by Brian Maher
“And just like that… war with Iran is now almost assured.” The gentlemen of Zero Hedge certainly know how to shake us by the shoulders. Is it true? Is war with Iran almost assured?
Two vessels suffered extensive damage this morning in separate incidents near the Persian Gulf’s Strait of Hormuz. Recall, four tankers were also sabotaged in the Persian Gulf last month. Logic suggests the same party — or parties — are to blame for this morning’s contretemps. That same party — or parties — evidently enjoys playing with matches...
One-third of all seaborne oil transits the Strait of Hormuz. Thus it forms perhaps the world’s most vital chokepoint. Any shipping disruption can play the devil with oil prices — and the world’s economies ultimately. And a wider conflict could send oil prices hurtling to staggering heights. “This is the kind of nightmare headline that you don’t necessarily want to wake up to,” shrieks John Kilduff of energy hedge fund Again Capital. Oil prices surged over 4% this morning after the news broke. Only the skeleton facts have emerged as yet...
One vessel — the Marshall Island-registered tanker Front Altair — was reportedly holed by torpedo or naval mine. The second incident involved a Japanese-owned tanker, Kokuka Courageous by name. She was evidently impacted by at least one “shell” or other projectile. The question then becomes… who is responsible for this morning’s assaults?
One United States defense official — unsurprisingly — claims Iranian responsibility is “highly likely.” Iranian officials have in fact threatened shipping in the Strait of Hormuz. The reason would be to retaliate for nuclear-related U.S. sanctions. Iranian oil exports have reportedly plunged over 50% since last November when sanctions recommenced. And the Iranian economy is in an awful way.
Is Iran creating incidents to drive oil prices higher? Or is it seeking negotiating leverage? None of these tanker attacks have left smoking-gun evidence behind them. The United States cannot therefore mount a soap box and finger Tehran directly.
Subtle are the arts of diplomacy. Perhaps Iran is indirectly reminding Washington of its talents for mischief. But Iran hotly denies all culpability for this morning’s incidents. “Suspicious doesn’t begin to describe what likely transpired this morning,” shouted Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif this morning.
Suspicious? Recall, one of the assaulted vessels this morning was Japanese-owned. As chance would have it — or not — Japanese Prime Minister Shinzō Abe is in Tehran today. There he is meeting with Iranian supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. His purpose, ironically, is to de-escalate tensions between the United States and Iran.
Why, wonders the aforesaid Iranian foreign minister, would Iran attack a Japanese ship when it was hosting the Japanese prime minister? Iran has no heat against Japan. Could this morning’s attacks constitute a “false flag” operation to frame Iran?
Observes Julian Lee at Bloomberg: "Fingers will certainly be pointed at Iran as the mastermind behind these events. But the potential benefits to the Persian Gulf nation are outweighed by the risks. And even if Tehran isn't responsible, it will still suffer the consequences."
Cui bono — who benefits? Iran certainly has its enemies. Saudi Arabia and Israel rise foremost among them. Sunni Saudi Arabia and Shiite Iran represent the Hatfields and McCoys of the Middle East. And Saudi Arabia has been waging ceaseless warfare against Iranian-supported militias in neighboring Yemen.
Meantime, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has long yelled for war against Iran. He also enjoys the enthusiastic support of Messieurs John Bolton and Mike Pompeo — two grandees of the president’s foreign policy team. Could either Saudi Arabia or Israel have staged the attacks to bring down the American hammer upon a hated enemy?
Our colleague Dave Gonigam of The 5 Min. Forecast recently quipped he was expecting something similar to the 1964 Gulf of Tonkin incident. That of course refers to “attacks” by North Vietnamese gunboats against the U.S. destroyers Maddox and C. Turner Joy. Maddox tangled briefly with three of these craft. It sustained no damage. The Turner Joy incident was entirely phantom — false returns foxed her radar crew. These two events nonetheless resulted in the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution… which was used to justify escalating military action in Vietnam.
Of course, we do not claim to know the source of this morning’s attacks. And our tinfoil hat is stowed safely beneath the stairs. The facts may be precisely as they appear. And Iran may bear all responsibility. But we are innately suspicious of official explanations… as mice are innately suspicious of cats.
But to return to our question... Is war with Iran now almost assured? The warhawks begin to circle overhead. We simply do not know. But this we do know: If somebody is playing with matches, eventually we will have a fire... "
"The hull has been breached above the water line on the starboard side," Bernhard Schulte GmbH &Co KG said in a statement on its website." A torpedo cannot breach the hull ABOVE the water line... this was a cruise missile, or possibly a limpet mine. Done by whom? - CP