Don’t Give the Iran Hawks What They Want
The Bloomberg editors have been pushing for the destruction of the nuclear deal and backing economic warfare on Iran for months. Now they are seizing on the recent oil tanker attacks to call for more escalation and to berate our allies once again:
U.S. sanctions on the regime are already extensive, limiting the additional punishment that can be imposed this way. But the screws can and should be tightened further. For instance, there’s room to expand the scope of sanctions announced earlier this month on Iran’s production and export of petrochemicals.
Europe is in a position to do more, and should step up. Its governments have been unhappy with the U.S. withdrawal from the 2015 joint nuclear agreement with Iran, and have been on the fence ever since — even going so far as to devise a “special purpose vehicle” to help Iran work around U.S. sanctions. Germany, France and Britain now need to see the regime in Tehran for what is — a grave danger to the Middle East and the wider world — and to fall in with the U.S.
Telling European allies to fall in line behind the destructive Iran policy that has created a crisis is akin to an arsonist telling the fire department that they need to help him set more fires. The Bloomberg editors have been giving our allies horrible “advice” for months, telling them to abandon the nuclear deal and join with the administration in its dangerous and provocative “maximum pressure” campaign. Fortunately, European governments have been ignoring these demands, and I assume they will continue to ignore them. It takes incredible gall to support the policies that have led to the current rise in tensions and then tell the same people that opposed your lousy policies that they now have to get on board with even more senseless escalation.
Iran hawks have urged the U.S. to pursue an increasingly confrontational and hostile policy towards Iran for years. Over the last thirteen months, the Trump administration has given them practically everything they wanted, and tensions with Iran are predictably higher than they have been in decades. The U.S. is dangerously close to an unnecessary war with Iran because of the actions that Iran hawks have supported, which have led to the entirely predictable reactions from Iran to the relentless economic warfare against their country. They have been kicking and shoving Iran with increasing intensity for more than a year, and the moment that Iran may have shoved back they have the chutzpah to talk about Iranian “aggression” that must be opposed.
It is possible that the Iranian government is responsible for the recent tanker attacks, but it is telling that an administration that is desperate to pin these attacks on them has so far provided no real proof that would convince a skeptical audience. The administration has lied so many times about Iran, its activities, and its ambitions that we cannot take them at their word, and the “evidence” they have provided is so unclear that it doesn’t tell us much of anything. Most other governments can see that the Trump administration has been spoiling for a fight with Iran for months, and they are understandably wary of accepting U.S. claims when they come from discredited officials. There should be a thorough, independent international investigation, and in the meantime the U.S. should begin backing off and reducing its pressure campaign.
Even if the administration’s claims in this case are eventually confirmed, these attacks are not a cause for escalation, much less military action, but an occasion to pull back from the brink before things spin completely out of control. No one should be attacking civilian tankers, but so far the damage has been minimal and doesn’t demand an armed response from anyone. To use these attacks as an excuse to plunge the region into a hellish war that would cause enormous harm to all sides would be insane. To continue pushing for additional sanctions and confrontation is to bring us closer to that war that the Iran hawks disingenuously tell us they don’t want.
The Iran hawks want everyone to get behind the disastrous policy that has brought us to this point, so it is important that the rest of us refuse to give them what they want. It is imperative that everyone that doesn’t want a shooting war with Iran also fight to end the economic war that the U.S. has been waging on Iran, and we should assume that anyone that insists on escalating the economic war from now on is hoping to trigger an armed conflict.