this post also features in offguardian
With so many brown skinned men, women and children in the Middle East maimed, bereaved or having their lives terminated by the high tech and highly profitable products of America’s military industrial complex, it’s easy to forget that sanctions are no less lethal.
Remember Madeleine Albright? Asked if the deaths to malnutrition and disease of half a million Iraqi under fives – before Bush – had been a price worth paying for putting a sanctions squeeze on Saddam, Bill Clinton’s Secretary of State said yes.
Now turn to this Financial Times piece from April, on the economic hit to Iran from the Trump-Bolton-Pompeo sanctions. It tells of ‘collapse in economic growth, pushing the Islamic republic into a deep recession and lifting inflation towards 40 per cent’.
A few months earlier an Independent piece had focused on the human impact. John Bolton, as you may recall, is on record as wanting sanctions to hurt ordinary Iranians till they rise up and overthrow the theocracy in Tehran.
Meanwhile those who dared tell the truth about what our leaders are really thinking and doing continue to suffer. Julian – abandoned by so many who should be his most ardent supporters – sits in Belmarsh contemplating the very real prospect of spending the next 175 years in a US for-profit snake pit. Meantime, for every day of refusal to help the FBI bring that happy state of affairs to fruition, Chelsea is fined $1,000. Then there’s Ed, in Moscow with no direction home.
Bear these things in mind as we move to this morning’s news.
Today I woke to hear of Iran seizing a British oil tanker, the Stena Impero, in the Hormuz Strait in an unambiguous don’t-fuck-with-us signal. Such a move has been on the cards since the ‘daring landing’ of July 4, when HM Marines impounded an Iranian tanker off the coast of Gibraltar.
Whitehall says the Gibraltar move was to enforce sanctions against Assad, but this account has problems over and above the central one of the dirty war on Syria being driven by reasons far removed from those sold to credulous Western audiences. The problems I speak of are that in the past Iranian tankers clearly headed for Syria have been let through, and in any case Syria cannot be oil-embargoed as long as she has Russia onside.
So what is going on? I’m no fan of either the Guardian or Patrick Wintour. I’m also suspicious of the hostility to Trump of liberal media that had no problem with the Clinton-Albright sanctions, no problem with Obama’s bombings and no problem with Hillary’s desire to impose no-flight-zones on Syria in a way that promised to bring us to a very nuclear WW3. But this piece today gives a surprisingly fair minded assessment – obligatory prayers for Assad’s ousting aside – of the perilous game Washington is playing, with London in for the ride
… there were some oddities to the [July 4] British decision. Few previous shipments of oil to Syria have been impounded. The Spanish claim the British acted under the instruction of the Americans. The Trump administration is trying to freeze Iranian oil exports as part of its policy of maximum economic sanctions designed to force the Iranians to reopen talks on the nuclear deal signed in 2015.
But Britain opposes that US policy, arguing that it is counterproductive and only likely to strengthen the hands of hardliners in Tehran.
Carl Bildt, former Swedish prime minister and co-chair of the European council on foreign relations, pinpointed the ambiguities of the British action in Gibraltar: “The legality of the UK seizure of a tanker heading for Syria with oil from Iran intrigues me. One refers to EU sanctions against Syria, but Iran is not a member of the EU. And the EU as a principle doesn’t impose its sanctions on others. That’s what the US does.”
Actually, I take that back about ‘surprising fairmindedness’. On top of the de rigeur expressions of horror by liberal media at Trump’s shennanniganns, as if the Empire had been all sweetness and light till November 2016, we have to consider the diverging interests of the EU (Guardian being uncritically pro Remain) and USA over how to bring Iran to heel. Ditto on whether Europe must buy American energy rather than cheaper Russian gas. So far, in any real trial of strength, Europe has caved – witness Merkel’s humiliating return from Washington, empty handed, over the Iran sanctions – but we can expect the Guardian to make deprecatory noises as the world’s foremost imperialism inches us towards Armageddon in the name of Keeping Us Safe.
In short, Wintour’s piece falls well within the Overton window.
But what about Tehran? All things considered it’s hardly surprising, is it, if the ayatollahs refuse to blink? But is this the longed for casus belli, or just another milestone along the road? There’s ample evidence of Washington desire – outpaced by Bolton’s personal vendetta – for regime change in Iran, dating back at least as far as 2002. But contrary to the hype from Pompeo and Bolton, Iran has shown little desire to develop a nuclear capability. What she does have is the capacity to wage asymmetric, protracted war against any forces ranged against her from land or sea. (Short of nuking Tabriz and Mashad, regime change is not achievable from the air.) Since it beggars belief that Israel would not be drawn into such a war, you really do have to wonder.
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See also this OffGuardian discussion of, and further information on, today’s events.