FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Persian Gulf Incident

by DAVE LINDORFF

Things are getting out of hand in the Persian Gulf.

The murderous cannon firing by nervous and trigger-happy Navy personnel on the supply ship USS Rappahannock off the coast of Dubai earlier this week, which killed an Indian fisherman and wounded three of his companions as they motored past the US vessel shows how easily a deadly and hard to stop new war in the Gulf region — this time between the US and Iran — could start.

This time it was a fishing boat carrying Indians from Tamil Nadu state. Next time, however, it could as easily be an Iranian patrol boat, or even just an Iranian fishing boat that gets shot up or sunk by nervous US sailors.  If that happens, then what?

Would Iran and its military sit tight and accept such an act, as the country did when the US shot down a civilian Iranian airliner in 1988?

Maybe, and maybe not.

I suppose if the US were to shoot up an Iranian civilian vessel, and then apologized adequately, there might be no consequences, but then, the record suggests that the US doesn’t have an easy time apologizing for such atrocities. Look what it took to get a US apology for the murderous actions (in broad daylight on a crowded street) of CIA contract worker Raymond Davis in Pakistan. He
slaughtered two young Pakistanis with gunshots to the back and execution shots to the head, and his later arrest by Pakistani police led to the running down and killing of another innocent Pakistani man by other CIA officers racing to rescue Davis in their SUV. Only months later, when he was facing trial on murder charges, did the US stop demanding his release and finally finally apologize and pay a death compensation payment to the families of those killed, as well as to the family of a young wife of one of the slain men, who subsequently committed suicide by ingesting poison.

It also took months for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the head of the US military operation in Afghanistan to apologize to Pakistan for the slaughter, by helicopter gunships, of 28 soldiers manning a Pakistani mountaintop outpost, in an incident that has never really been adequately explained.

The way things are moving in the Gulf region though, there might not be time to wait several months for an apology in such a situation.

If the US Navy were to attack or sink an Iranian Navy vessel, or shoot down an Iranian military plane, whether deliberately or because of the nervous overreaction of some low-ranking sailors or soldiers manning a gun or rocket-launcher, even a quick apology might not prevent an Iranian response.

I used to think that a US attack on Iran was unlikely. The US military is, after all, very thinly stretched these days, confronted as it is with a far more assertive Chinese Navy in the Pacific and the South China Sea, with a quagmire in its war in Afghanistan, a civil war in Syria, fighting and instability in Yemen and Somalia, continuing unrest in Iraq, and of course a newly reassertive Russia. It also faces enormous budget pressure at home. Add to that a weakening US and global economy that could be thrown into severe crisis by the oil price shock that would surely accompany any active war between the US and Iran.

And yet, the decision by the US to send more attack aircraft, troops and ships to the regions around Iran and to step up covert actions against Iran, including sending in drone aircraft like the one captured a few months ago by Iranian forces, massively increases the chance of something going terribly wrong and setting off just such a conflict.

Some analysts have been arguing that the US genuinely doesn’t want a war with Iran, and is only stepping up its military presence around Iran as a way of deterring Israel from attacking. That could well be the case, but it’s a dangerous strategy, because all those US weapons systems, manned by young men and women in uniform who have their hands on the triggers, can easily be fired if those people feel personally threatened by what they perceive to be Iranian attackers. Aboard those Navy vessels, the USS Cole is on everyone’s mind. That destroyer was nearly sunk by a big hole blasted in its side by a small suicide boat that motored up to its side while it was sitting in a harbor in Yemen on Oct. 12, 2000.

What is needed now is restraint.  Clearly the US should cool its rhetoric and pull all offensive weaponry out of the Persian Gulf and  away from the vicinity of Iran. Iran, for its part, would do well not to have its military vessels behave aggressively or provocatively in the vicinity of US warships.

During the worst days of the Cold War, the US and the Soviet Union established a hotline that allowed the leaders of the two countries to talk directly in the event of a crisis. There were plenty of crises, too, like the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962, and many tense incidents involving submarines bumping into each other or being bumped by ships of the other side. Yet in all those decades, there was never a hot war between the two adversaries.

It might be a good idea for Tehran and Washington to set up a dedicated red phone line to prevent a war neither side could possibly want.

Dave Lindorff is a  founder of This Can’t Be Happening and a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, published by AK Press. Hopeless is also available in a Kindle edition. He lives in Philadelphia.

Five Nights in Istanbul
in a Gorgeous Flat,
Donated by Longtime CounterPunchers
Available Only at the CounterPunch Online Auction
Click Here to See the View and Place Your Bid 

 

 

Dave Lindorff is a founding member of ThisCantBeHappening!, an online newspaper collective, and is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press).

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

April 25, 2017
Russell Mokhiber
It’s Impossible to Support Single-Payer and Defend Obama-care
Nozomi Hayase
Prosecution of Assange is Persecution of Free Speech
Robert Fisk
The Madder Trump Gets, the More Seriously the World Takes Him
Giles Longley-Cook
Trump the Gardener
stclair
Major Challenges of New Orleans Charter Schools Exposed at NAACP Hearing
Jack Random
Little Fingers and Big Egos
Stanley L. Cohen
Dissent on the Lower East: the Post-Political Condition
Stephen Cooper
Conscientious Justice-Loving Alabamians, Speak Up!
David Swanson
The F-35 and the Incinerating Ski Slope
Binoy Kampmark
Mike Pence in Oz
Peter Paul Catterall
Green Nationalism? How the Far Right Could Learn to Love the Environment
George Wuerthner
Range Riders: Making Tom Sawyer Proud
Clancy Sigal
It’s the Pits: the Miner’s Blues
Robert K. Tan
Abe is Taking Japan Back to the Bad Old Fascism
April 24, 2017
Mike Whitney
Is Mad Dog Planning to Invade East Syria?    
John Steppling
Puritan Jackals
Robert Hunziker
America’s Tale of Two Cities, Redux
David Jaffe
The Republican Party and the ‘Lunatic Right’
John Davis
No Tomorrow or Fashion-Forward
Patrick Cockburn
Treating Mental Health Patients as Criminals
Jack Dresser
An Accelerating Palestine Rights Movement Faces Uncertain Direction
George Wuerthner
Diet for a Warming Planet
Lawrence Wittner
Why Is There So Little Popular Protest Against Today’s Threats of Nuclear War?
Colin Todhunter
From Earth Day to the Monsanto Tribunal, Capitalism on Trial
Paul Bentley
Teacher’s Out in Front
Franklin Lamb
A Post-Christian Middle East With or Without ISIS?
Kevin Martin
We Just Paid our Taxes — are They Making the U.S. and the World Safer?
Erik Mears
Education Reformers Lowered Teachers’ Salaries, While Promising to Raise Them
Binoy Kampmark
Fleeing the Ratpac: James Packer, Gambling and Hollywood
Weekend Edition
April 21, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Diana Johnstone
The Main Issue in the French Presidential Election: National Sovereignty
Paul Street
Donald Trump: Ruling Class President
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Dude, Where’s My War?
Andrew Levine
If You Can’t Beat ‘Em, Join ‘Em
Paul Atwood
Why Does North Korea Want Nukes?
Robert Hunziker
Trump and Global Warming Destroy Rivers
Vijay Prashad
Turkey, After the Referendum
Binoy Kampmark
Trump, the DOJ and Julian Assange
CJ Hopkins
The President Formerly Known as Hitler
Steve Reyna
Replacing Lady Liberty: Trump and the American Way
Lucy Steigerwald
Stop Suggesting Mandatory National Service as a Fix for America’s Problems
Robert Fisk
It is Not Just Assad Who is “Responsible” for the Rise of ISIS
John Laforge
“Strike Two” Against Canadian Radioactive Waste Dumpsite Proposal
Norman Solomon
The Democratic Party’s Anti-Bernie Elites Have a Huge Stake in Blaming Russia
Andrew Stewart
Can We Finally Get Over Bernie Sanders?
Susan Babbitt
Don’t Raise Liberalism From the Dead (If It is Dead, Which It’s Not)
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail