Middle East

New Crisis in Gulf of Oman: What really happened? Where is it headed?

Kokuta Courageous on fire

On Thursday, June 13 two oil tankers, one operated by a Japanese company and the other by a Norwegian shipping company, were attacked in the Gulf of Oman, off the coast of Iran. The Trump administration immediately claimed that the Iranian Revolutionary Guards were responsible. They based this claim on a video they released of a patrol boat, allegedly of the Guards, standing alongside one of the tankers, the Kokuta Courageous (operated by the Japanese company), apparently removing something attached to the side of the ship. Trump & Co. claimed the Guards were removing a limpet mine they had attached earlier, and that they were removing it to hide the evidence.

N.Y. Times Article
On Friday, the NY Times published an extremely interesting article.
It was interesting both for the facts it recounted as well as for the fact that the NYT published it at all!

Patrol boat of same type used by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards alongside the Kokuta Courageous. They appear to have been removing some object, but the question is who placed it there in the first place?

Using satellite imagery, vessel transponders and other open sources, the article traced the path of the two ships that were apparently attacked. It showed that it was, in fact, the two ships that the Trump administration claimed and that they were in the location that Trump & Co. claimed. They also confirm that it could well have been a Guard patrol boat alongside the Kokuta Courageous, that the sailors on the boat were removing something from the ship’s side, and that it could have been a limpet mine.

But then they write: “Yet what the videos and photographs published by the United States don’t show us is more important…. Nothing presented as evidence proves that the object was placed there by the Iranians. The video shows only that the Iranians chose to remove it for an as yet unknown reason.”

What’s so significant about this is the fact that the Times would even bother to raise the point. The article refers to the Gulf of Tonkin incident. That “incident” was a lie on the part of the Lyndon Johnson administration, used to vastly widen the Vietnam War. It also refers to Saddam Hussein’s supposed “weapons of mass destruction” – a similar lie used to invade Iraq. In both those cases, the NY Times and the US capitalist media never seriously investigated the administration’s claims. They just reported them as-is, giving them the appearance of established fact. So why the change?

As Oaklandsocialist has pointed out repeatedly, Trump is largely out of the control of the mainstream of the US capitalist class. (Here is the most recent article, which we believe documents this.) The main wings of the US capitalist class are in general unhappy with Trump’s foreign policy, and in particular with his policy regarding Iran. They no more want a war with Iran than does the Iranian government. But they don’t have complete control.

Buttressing this NY Times article is another one titled Distrusting Both Iran and U.S., Europe Urges ‘Maximum Restraint’”  Among other things, they quote François Heisbourg, a French defense analyst: “There’s a lot of suspicion in Europe about American motives. The maritime milieu is especially susceptible to manipulation — remember the Gulf of Tonkin…” They also quoted Ellie Geranmayeh, whom they call an Iran expert with the European Council on Foreign Relations: “Most European governments are surprised how long Iran has played the strategic patience card, especially after the increase in American sanctions in November.” The mainstream of the US capitalist class is joined by its most important allies – Western European capitalists – in opposing a US military attack on Iran, and they don’t trust the Trump administration’s account of the current crisis.

What did, in fact, happen in the Gulf of Oman that day?

Yutaka Katada.
He appeared to dispute the claims of Trump & Co.

Yutaka Katada, president of the shipping company that operates the Kokuta Corageous, has said that that the ships’ crew reports having seen a “flying object” moments before the ship was struck. In other words, most likely a missile. Katada also said “I do not think there was a time bomb or an object attached to the side of the ship.” This seems to sink the Trump narrative.

One possibility as far as the Revolutionary Guard’s action is that it was removing a limpet mine placed on the ship by others, and that it was doing so exactly to avoid a wider conflict! Of course, that is purely speculation at this time.

We can also only speculate on who was responsible for the attack on those two ships. It seems unlikely that it was the Iranian government. For one thing, it doesn’t make sense for the Iranian government to attack Japanese-operated ships at the very moment that Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was in Iran negotiating with that government on how to reduce tensions! That government may be a reactionary and repressive one, but they are not insane. They have nothing to gain from a US military attack. On the other hand, how about their allies in Yemen – the Houthis? It’s impossible to fully understand what lies under the surface in the murky world of terrorism. Who knows what they might feel they stand to gain? Further, every such group has “assets” of opposition powers, even though these individuals might not even know they are “assets”.

Then there is Saudi Arabia’s bin Salman, a loose cannon if there ever was one. He and his partner-in-crime, Israel’s Netanyahu, definitely think they stand to gain from a US military attack on Iran. Agents of one or both of these could have been responsible, or possibly an “asset” of one or the others in the Houthis. In fact, on the same day as the attack on the ships, both the Houthis and the Saudis announced that the former had launched drone attacks on a Saudi airport.

bin Salman and Putin sharing a laugh shortly after the former had organized the execution of Jamal Kashoggi. They have together more than just similar methods.

Meanwhile, the Putin regime is distancing itself from its Iranian counterparts. The Russian government always has been friendly with both Netanyahu and bin Salman. Recently Russian troops actually clashed with Iranian troops in Syria. They were willing to encourage the Iranian government’s military expansion into Syria, but now they are playing the opposite role since their Isreali allies are objecting.

As for the Iranian government: All reports are that the “hard liners” have been strengthened by Trump’s policies, as is to be expected (and maybe even intended by Bolton). Nor is it bound by the deal it had agreed to before. According to al Jazeera ‘Tehran said in May that Iran

Trump and Netanyahu: The two of them are also thicker than thieves.

would start enriching uranium at a higher level unless world powers protected its economy from US sanctions within 60 days. “Obviously, Iran cannot stick to this agreement unilaterally,” President Hassan Rouhani told the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia.’

What will be the response of bin Salman, Netanyahu and Trump as this happens? Al Jazeera is also reporting that already the Trump administration is considering increasing its military presence in the region.

The best way to stop a disastrous military attack by Trump & Co. on Iran is to build the workers movement in both countries and to build the direct links between the workers in both countries. That is what Oaklandsocialist has tried to do, with its own tiny resources, by initiating the letter from US workers to our fellow workers in Iran. That that letter has been translated twice into Persian and then on a left satellite TV channel in Iran are further important steps. We hope that we will get replies to this letter from workers in Iran and that a genuine dialog and direct links can be initiated.








Kokuta Courageous on fire

3 replies »

  1. There are other actors with the interest in stirring up shit with US/SArabia on the one side and Iran on the other. The most important, IMO, is Qatar, currently isolated and slowly being destroyed economicaly by the S.Arabia. They would LOVE to see a dust up between Iran and it’s current protaganist, S.Arabia so they can be pulled back into the informal alliance of the US and the Arab states against Iran.

    Secondly is Israel, which has the ability and submarines to stage this.

    No evidence at all but if you are looking for more incentive beyond the US there it is.

    • Yes, you have a point about Qatar, although from the outside here, they don’t seem to be that much of a player. Maybe that’s all the more incentive. We can speculate forever at this point. As far as Israel – we already raised that possibility.

      • David said Qatar, not Oman. I think Qatar is unlikely, though not impossible; since Qatar/Turkey/MB form an alliance that is at odds with both the Saudi-UAE bloc and with Iran, I guess they could benefit from both rival blocs being at war with one another. As for Oman, just btw – it is in the unique position of having excellent, top-notch, relations with both Iran and Israel, but not with the Saudis.

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