Trump walks the tightrope

23rd June 2019

Missile batteries

Iranian missile batteries disabled by cyber attack

US President, Donald Trump, continues to walk a political tightrope in the Middle East.  Trump has been trying to paint himself as the great statesman in recent days, for pulling back from a decision which may have resulted in the deaths of 150 innocent Iranians.  Trump claims that he called off air strikes upon Iran at the last minute last week, after being told of the potential death toll.  The threatened strikes were in response to the Iranians shooting down an unmanned US spy drone, which had ‘strayed’ into Iranian air space.

Quite where Trump imagines he gets the authority to toy with the lives of 150 Iranians, or anyone else, is anyone’s guess.  The fact that he can portray himself as magnanimous for not indulging in this arbitrary execution is monstrous.  The position is further compounded by the fact that Trump is responding to a crisis which is largely of his own making.

In pulling the US out of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the Iran nuclear deal signed between Tehran and Barack Obama, Trump triggered increased tensions with Iran.  The renewed sanctions as a result have upped the pressure upon the Iranian economy, given the hardliners in the Islamic Republic greater prominence and squeezed the living standards of ordinary Iranians to breaking point.

Trump may not have killed any Iranians in a direct military strike, on this occasion, but the US sanctions regime, combined with the profiteering, corruption and ineptitude of the Iranian government itself, is ensuring that the people of Iran are suffocating slowly.

Recent reports indicate that US retaliation has taken the form of cyber attacks upon Iranian weapons systems.  US officials claim that the cyberattacks, part of a contingency plan developed over weeks amid escalating tensions, have disabled the Iranian computer systems that control its rocket and missile launchers.

The United States is determined to stem the tide of Iranian influence in the region, particularly its support for Hezbollah in Lebanon, Houthi rebels in Yemen, its role against intervention in Syria and its influence upon the government of Iraq. The US is supported by its regional proxies in Israel and Saudi Arabia, who are equally concerned that the power and influence of Iran does not upset their own designs to be regional superpowers.

The US, Saudis and Israel have a collective interest in keeping the flow of oil to the West, while at the same time ensuring the flow of weapons from the US and UK into the Middle East.

White House hawks in the form of National Security Adviser, John Bolton, and Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, have argued for military strikes against Iran.  Trump’s recent stand down is by no means a guarantee that the threat of conflict is over or that one could not erupt due to mistake or misunderstanding.

The recent attacks upon oil tankers in the Persian Gulf appear to be the first steps in a pattern of provocation in which Iran is blamed for actions which the US has to then address, in order to protect its ‘vital interests’.

Whatever the US may say publicly the only endgame for the Trump administration is regime change in Iran.  The economy in Iran is on its knees, protests continue to sweep the country, the credibility of the regime is lower than ever.  Oil exports are virtually at zero, further compounding the weakness of the economy and the misery of the Iranian people.  In short, Iran poses no economic or military threat to the United States.

The Iranian people have suffered 40 years of mendacity, poverty and oppression under the Islamic Republic.  They are undoubtedly ready for change, just not change imposed by the US or its proxies, but change which they lead and the direction of which they determine.  That is something the Trump White House will not be comfortable with as regime change for the US means change that is pro US.

Given the history of US intervention in the region a US friendly government in Iran is not something which can be guaranteed, or which the Iranian people should be expected to deliver.

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