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CSotD: Blundering towards Armageddon

Pretty sure Chip Bok was not intending to make an argument in favor of cutting Iran a break, but he provides a good stepping-off spot.

What actually happened in the Gulf of Hormuz remains undefined, and grainy video of a Revolutionary Guard boat crew removing an unexploded mine from the side of a ship is hardly proof of anything.

That is, they could indeed be removing it so that investigators won’t be able to trace it to them. But if, as one claim has it, they were rendering assistance to the stricken ship, taking off a bomb before it explodes seems like a reasonable action.

But the Revolutionary Guard is problematic to begin with, and Bok would be making a reasonable commentary if it were his intent to suggest that they are pirates under the command of the mullahs, as opposed to an official navy under the responsible command of Iran’s civilian government.

 

As RJ Matson puts it, Iran’s hawks and our hawks work together well.

But, while Trump is indeed, undeniably our president and Iran’s Guardian Council truly gets to call a lot of shots, it would be helpful if the people of both countries understood each other.

While we’re certainly not currently in a position to throw stones, Iran’s odd governmental structure is a serious source of misunderstanding.

It’s a problem for Iranians, to start with, because, for educated, urban Iranians, it frustrates not only their national hopes but their day-to-day lives.

And it’s a problem for Americans because it allows Iran’s conservative clergy to make outrageous statements that feed into the goals of our most bellicose chickenhawks.

For that matter, it’s a problem for cartoonists, because we generally recognize graphic shortcuts and symbols: Most readers realize that British people don’t all walk around in bowler hats clutching teacups and Germans don’t all wear monocles and those helmets with the pointy speartip things on the top.

But they really believe all Iranians dress in traditional robes and turbans.

 

Here’s a photo, from 2014, of 23 Iranian cabinet officials, of whom only three wear traditional dress. And, while the graphic notes the American education of several cabinet members, others have degrees from European universities.

The difficulty is that Iran also has the Guardian Council, which is something like our Supreme Court mashed up with Britain’s House of Lords. It is a body made up of conservative religious leaders that has the power to overrule or otherwise bring to a screeching halt the work of that Western-educated, suit-and-tie clad modern civilian government.

A decade-and-a-half ago, for instance, the Guardian Council disrupted a move to modernity in the Majlis, Iran’s parliament, by declaring a substantial number of reform candidates, including incumbents, ineligible to run for office.

There is also the Revolutionary Guard, which is not Iran’s military but is well-armed and prone to doing things in the Gulf that are, to put it in non-technical terms, batshit crazy.

Here’s a brilliant, well-informed analysis from South Africa’s Maverick news site of those ship attacks, and, while it is all required reading, the relevant paragraph is this:

(T)he Iranian civilian government has limited control over the Iranian Revolutionary Guard forces, a powerful military all on its own, and that is a major holder of industrial and commercial resources in the country. Their ties are much more closely aligned to the current ayatollah and his influence, and his influential hierarchy is less than fully on board with the Rouhani government’s positions.

Why don’t we know this? Well, we do.

We just don’t talk about it, or write about it, or acknowledge it in speeches.

Anyone who has served in the US Navy in the Gulf knows how the Guard constantly sends out its boats for provocative near-attacks, like a middle-school bully poking his finger in somebody’s chest, hoping for a reaction that can be passed off as “he swung first.”

We’ve also seen times when British or American small craft have blundered over the line into Iranian waters and been captured amid great hullabaloo, then quietly released as soon as the Iranian government can persuade the Guard to grow up and stop making trouble.

It’s no secret, but, to return to Matson’s cartoon, both sides would rather exploit the situation than explain, much less resolve, it.

We.

Know.

This.

 

But, as David Fitzsimmons points out, we only know what we want to know when we want to know it.

And if the mullahs on the Guardian Council don’t offer some extreme rhetoric for our chickenhawks to exploit, the annoying, childish bravado of the Revolutionary Guard in the straits will provide an excuse to rattle the sabers.

 

As Darrin Bell notes, we have an established formula for setting up a war when we want one and it’s worked well over the years.

 

Joel Pett even dares to remember how we not only let the sponsors of the 9/11 attacks off the hook and invaded Iraq on a ridiculous, unfounded rumor that they had some connection to the event, but continue to buddy-buddy up to the Saudis, even allowing them to murder journalists without being held accountable.

 

Tom Toles uses the graphic shortcut: It wasn’t the mullahs who forged that agreement with a coalition of nations (not just Obama). It was those clean-cut, Western educated modern government leaders.

And there’s this: Kamala Harris was on Lawrence O’Donnell’s show last night and, since she sits on the intelligence committee, he asked her if she’d seen the classified evidence about the attacks in the gulf.

She said she had, but that (obviously) she couldn’t talk about it.

OTOH, she advised being cool and, not only did whatever she saw not make her want to send American kids into war, but she promised that, if she were president, we’d get back in that treaty.

And she added that our next president, whoever it is, will have a lot of holes to patch in our foreign policy.

 

Our current challenge being, as Kal Kallagher suggests, keeping the current president from punching any new ones.

 

Community Comments

#1 Michael Egan
June/19/2019
@ 7:58 am

Daily political cartoons from a liberal perspective on these and related topics

#2 Sean Martin
June/19/2019
@ 9:13 am

“invaded Iraq on a ridiculous, unfounded rumor that they had some connection to the event”

The reason Bush went there was because of all the American-created unsettlement in the entire region, and he wanted to protect his and his buddes’ oil interests. What better way to do that than invade and just take over. Dont foget: two key things took place after the invasion:

(1) soldiers were sent to guard the buildings that held the offices of Big Oil and to protect the oilfields themselves, and

(2) the US unilaterally tore up agreements Iran had with France and Germany to purchase its oil, with a claim that it was now *ours*… by divine right, I guess.

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