(June 17, 2019 / JNS) The ongoing tensions between America and Iran seemed to reach a tipping point late last week when the United States blamed Iran for being behind the attack on two ships in the Gulf of Oman.
On Sunday, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned that “of course” the United States could take military action.
“The United States is considering a full range of options. We have briefed the president a couple of times, [and] we’ll continue to keep him updated. We are confident that we can take a set of actions that can restore deterrence which is our mission set,” he said in an interview on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”
However, Pompeo reiterated that U.S. President Donald Trump’s does not want to go to war.
“The president will consider everything we need to do to make sure, right? But what’s the president said? We don’t want Iran to get a nuclear weapon,” said Pompeo. “President Trump has said very clearly, he doesn’t want to go to war.”
Washington-based geopolitical strategist and diplomacy consultant John Sitilides told JNS that keeping the military option on the table is an effective move when grappling with a hostile adversary such as Iran.
“When dealing with allies and partners, diplomacy is conducted on a foundation of shared interests, values and objectives,” said Sitilides. “When dealing with implacably hostile adversaries such as Iran, effective diplomacy necessitates the possibility of coercive means to achieve the national interest.”
He continued, “Any serious engagement of Iran, given its history of relentless violence against the United States and our regional allies, begins with acknowledgement of all diplomatic options at Washington’s disposal, without which Iran would believe it can continue its regional and international malign actions with impunity.”
On Friday, the United States blamed Iran for attacking two tankers the day before—one carrying oil and the other transferring a freight of methanol—in the Gulf of Oman near the strategic Strait of Hormuz, less than a month after Iran was blamed for attacking four oil tankers off the coast of the United Arab Emirates.
On “Fox News Sunday,” Pompeo said it’s “unmistakable” that Iran was behind the attacks with “clear intent to deny transit through the straight.”
“The intelligence committee has lots of data, lots of evidence,” he added. “The world will come to see much of it.”
Iranian Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani on Sunday said the United States may have been behind “acts of sabotage” against the two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman.
“These unprovoked attacks on commercial shipping warrant a retaliatory military strike,” said U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) on “Face the Nation.”
Nonetheless, attempting to defy the United States, Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), which the United States designated as a terrorist group in April, has sought to maintain financial backing for its activities in Syria and Iraq, in addition to increasing the regime’s path to a nuclear bomb.
The IRGC “appears to be growing in Iran as it helps to prop up the economy and keeps more powerful adversaries off balance,” reported The Wall Street Journal on Sunday.
“Everything you see today contributing to the Islamic Republic of Iran’s defense power has been achieved under sanctions,” said IRGC Maj. Gen. Hossein Salami, then a brigadier general, in December, reported the semiofficial Mehr News Agency.
On Monday, Iran announced that it will violate the uranium stockpile limit by enriching uranium up to 20 percent, said Behrouz Kamalvandi, a spokesperson of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran.
Pentagon officials have been considering sending an addition 6,000 Navy, Air Force and Army personnel to the Gulf region.
‘Time to cool the rhetoric’
Barbara Slavin, who leads the Atlantic Council’s Future Iran Initiative, warned that the increased pressure from the United States against the regime has generated a dangerous path.
“To say there is a military option is to state the obvious,” she told JNS. “To state that it would be insane to have a war with Iran is also obvious.”
“I expect we will hear more saber-rattling from both Washington and Tehran. But what is also clear is that the Trump administration has once again destroyed a viable international agreement without having a viable alternative,” she continued. “Even U.S. allies in Europe are publicly voicing doubts about U.S. “intelligence” on the tanker attacks either because they don’t believe it or because they don’t want to give the Trump administration a justification for military action. It’s time to cool the rhetoric and offer Iran talks on a reasonable basis.”
However, Foundation for Defense of Democracies senior fellow Reuel Marc Gerecht and Council on Foreign Relations Ray Takeyh said that Iran—not the United States—is to blame and that Tehran is in a weak position against Washington.
“Iran is in no shape for a prolonged confrontation with the U.S. The regime is in a politically precarious position,” they wrote in The Wall Street Journal on Sunday. “The sullen Iranian middle class has given up on the possibility of reform or prosperity. The lower classes, once tethered to the regime by the expansive welfare state, have also grown disloyal. The intelligentsia no longer believes that faith and freedom can be harmonized. And the youth have become the regime’s most unrelenting critics.”