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Dressing Iran for barbecue

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By Owei LAKEMFA

IT was Sunday, May 12, near the port of Fujairah, in the Gulf of Oman, United Arab Emirate (UAE). Four commercial ships were bombed. Two of them, Amjad and Al Marzoqah are tankers owned by Saudi Arabia; the third, A. Michel, a UAE flagged fuel bunker barge; and the fourth, a Norwegian tanker, the Andrea Victory.

The attacks fitted perfectly into the United States (U.S.) Maritime Administration’s alert of Thursday, May 9, which claimed that: “Since early May, there is an increased possibility that Iran and/or its regional proxies could take action against U.S. and partner interests, including oil production infrastructure, after recently threatening to close the Strait of Hormuz. Iran or its proxies could respond by targeting commercial vessels, including oil tankers, or U.S. military vessels in the Red Sea, Bab-el-Mandeb Strait, or the Persian Gulf.”

So what other proof is needed? Who does not know that Iran blew up the ships; is that not logical, or is it not what those preparing Iran for barbecue want the world to believe?

The Emirati minister of state for foreign affairs, Anwar Gargash announced “investigations” but said his country had already made its “own readings and conclusions.” He then made a rallying call that: “The international community (should) assume its responsibilities to prevent any parties trying to undermine the security and safety of maritime traffic.” It was a little veiled invitation for Western powers to carry out an invasion.

A day after the incident, the UAE invited the U.S. to “investigate” the situation. What gave the UAE the impression that it is the U.S. – which has announced its intention to destroy Iran – that is best suited to investigate? By inviting the Americans to investigate, the UAE had excluded the U.S. from any suspicion or complicity. By extension, it has also excluded American allies, because the U.S. is unlikely to indict its allies.

The UAE is not giving Iran the benefit of doubt. It is also not giving an ear to the cries of the Iranian Foreign Ministry that these attacks might be part of the: “plots by ill-wishers to disrupt regional security.”

Within hours of the American military investigation team getting to the UAE port, it made a predictable “initial” assessment, finding Iran guilty. The Americans leaked a report claiming that Iranian or Iranian-backed proxies used explosives to blow a 5-to-10-foot hole in, near or just below the water line of each of the ships.

That same Monday the U.S. was invited to “investigate” the attacks, its secretary of state, Michael Pompeo, flew to Brussels for talks with Germany, France and United Kingdom on how to handle Iran.

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Saudi Arabia also has its own conclusions. Its energy minister, Khalid al-Falih said the bombings were part of plans to “undermine the freedom of maritime navigation, and the security of oil supplies to consumers all over the world.”

If we follow the Saudi logic, then which group or country has motives to endanger maritime navigation and oil supplies in the area? Certainly, it is not Iran because its national interests and economic survival are tied to free maritime navigation in its the Persian Gulf, which is an extension of the Gulf of Oman (Indian Ocean). Iran also has no reason to sabotage oil supplies because it derives 80 per cent of its earnings from oil, while 45 per cent of its workforce is in the industry. As such, despite American sanctions, military buildup and threats of invasion, it would amount to committing suicide for Iran to endanger oil supplies in the same waters it uses to sell its own oil.

Besides these, the unprovoked American sanctions against Iran are biting, while the Americans are flying their F-15s, F-35s and B-52 bombers in the Persian Gulf. The Iranians are seeking how to overcome these challenges and defend their country. Hence, it will make no sense for them to attack civilian ships in the UAE, including Saudi tankers and a European vessel. The Iranians are intelligent enough to know that such an act is likely to pitch them militarily against the combined forces of the Gulf Cooperation Council, which includes Saudi Arabia, UAE, Kuwait, Oman and Bahrain.

Again, we can ask, which groups or countries stand to gain in an armed conflict between Iran and the Gulf States? Which countries stand to benefit if the Muslim states attack each other or if their territories become battlegrounds? Which countries have been threatening to attack Iran and will, therefore, be glad if this job is done for them by the Gulf states? Which countries are supplying weapons in the Gulf and would want more sales? Which will be interested in getting their more modern weapons tested in a real war situation?

I suspect that the attacks were carried out to pitch the Gulf states against Iran or present a basis for declaring war against it. This deceptive art of levying war is an ancient one. When Britain decided to colonise Uganda in the 19th Century, it secured the services of a mercenary, retired Major Frederick John Dealtry Lugard to pacify its inhabitants. Lugard sent agents into the majority Muslim areas to kill Christians and blame it on the former, and then sent other agents into Christian areas to kill Muslims in supposed retaliatory attacks. This led to war and after the Ugandans had significantly weakened themselves, Lugard intervened to impose peace and colonialism.

Texas was part of Mexico. The emergent American state invaded Mexico and annexed Texas. Then in 1844, America offered the Mexicans $25 million to buy New Mexico. The offer was rejected, so America under President James Polk decided to engineer a pretence for war. It got General Zachary Taylor to carry out patrols on the uncharted American-Mexico border. This led to a skirmish and America declared war. Through such subterfuge, America extracted 500,000 square miles of land from Mexico.

When America and Britain eyed Iraqi oil in 2003, they manufactured the falsehood that President Sadam Hussein was supporting terrorist groups and that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, which Prime Minister Tony Blair claimed represented: “a real and present danger to Britain”. On the other hand, American President George Bush lied that Sadam was importing large quantities of uranium from the Niger Republic to build nuclear weapons.

If the West wants war in Iran, it can do so under any pretext, including claiming to fight terrorism, defending democracy, rescuing the Iranian people from dictatorship, defending maritime trade or finding it guilty of bombing the four ships in the UAE port. However, it should think it through; a war against Iran can easily degenerate into a religious war leading to an international conflagration, which may consume a number of nations and send millions to early graves. It is cheaper to allow for peace.


Owei LAKEMFA, a former secretary general of African workers, is a human rights activist, journalist and author.

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