The facts about the incident in the Gulf. Drifting to war

Summary: Here is a summary of the available information about the incident in the Gulf of Oman, the most complete I’ve seen. It’s not much. Certainly not enough to justify the bold statements made by both sides. But in the past 20 years the US has attacked nations with little more basis than this. This is an expansion of yesterday’s original post, since the news media is (again) not well covering this.

She can’t see much, although war approaches. Neither can we.

Women looking into fog - Dreamstime_104054045
ID 104054045 © Tomaszbuttler | Dreamstime.

Hours after the attack, US government officials declared that they knew who did it. This was long before experts would have much of the forensic evidence, let alone time for analysis.

“Iran did do it and you know they did it,”
Donald Trump on “Fox & Friends”, 14 June.

SecState Pompeo explained the basis for Trump’s verdict, at his June 13 press conference.

“It is the assessment of the United States government that the Islamic Republic of Iran is responsible for the attacks that occurred in the Gulf of Oman today this assessment is based on intelligence the weapons used the level of expertise needed to execute the operation recent similar Iranian attacks on shipping and the fact that no proxy group operating in the area has the resources and proficiency to act with such a high degree of sophistication. …”

This is the usual pattern. An incident occurs. US officials make bold confident statements, uncritically reported by flag-waving US journalists. Contrary evidence quickly appears.

“‘A mine doesn’t damage a ship above sea level,’ said Yutaka Katada, president of Kokuka Sangyo, the owner and operator of the vessel. ‘We aren’t sure exactly what hit, but it was something flying towards the ship,’ he said.”
From Bloomberg, June 13.

“The crew is saying it was hit by a flying object. They are saying that something came flying. To put a bomb on the side is something that we are not thinking.”
— Yutaka Kataka, in a video on Bloomberg, June 14.

Photo of Damaged Tanker, M/V Kokuka Courageous

US Central Command released a video which they say shows “Iran’s Revolutionary Guard removing an unexploded limpet mine from one of the oil tankers targeted near the Strait of Hormuz, suggesting the Islamic Republic sought to remove evidence of its involvement from the scene. ” {From AP.} Should they have left the device, whatever it is, on the ship? Does their removing it mean that they placed it? This is interesting evidence, but requires more investigation.

Bellingcat reviews the evidence

This draws no useful conclusions, but is a good summary: “Was Iran Behind the Oman Tanker Attacks? A Look at the Evidence” by Eliot Higgins (managing director of Bellingcat, an open-source reporting website – see Wikipedia), an op-ed in the NYT – “Internet databases confirm much about the incident, but the Trump administration hasn’t provided convincing evidence of Tehran’s culpability.”

A reminder.

Falsus in uno, falsus in omnibus.
— Latin for “false in one thing, false in everything.” English common law principle (Wikipedia) that “fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.”

When listening to US officials, especially when talking about military and foreign affairs, remember that they lie. They lie often, boldly, confidently, and without suffering any consequences. Remember the definitive evidence that Iraq had nukes. See the big list of lies by US officials. Remember the immortal (or immoral) words attributed to LBJ about the Tonkin Gulf incident (the fake casus belli justifying our war in Vietnam).

“For all I know, our Navy was shooting at whales out there.”

What might be the goal of this attack?

If this is a false flag attack, the obvious goal is to start a war with Iran. Much as Bush Jr. did with his fake claims of WMDs in Iraq and Afghanistan’s responsibility for 9/11. False flag attacks are frequently used to start wars because they are easy and effective.

America’s Deep State officials have reasons for these wars. But behind them is the insight said best by Randolph Bourne: “War is the health of the state” (1918). Only we can stop them.

My prediction.

During the last bout of war-fever, in 2008 (as the world slid into the Great Recession), I predicted that we would not attack (see my posts). That logic still holds. But the Deep State has grown much stronger, and our military is more “available” now that it has disengaged from Iraq and Afghanistan. I still believe that we will not attack Iran. These episodes serve only to keep the American people distracted from our own affairs – and unsettled.

For More Information

Ideas! For some shopping ideas, see my recommended books and films at Amazon.

Please like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. Also see other posts about threat inflation, about Iran, about our long conflict with Iran, see these posts …

  1. Threats to attack Iran are smoke. Sanctions on Iran are our tool. Weakening Iran is our goal.
  2. Vital but lost history: how we overthrew Iran’s democracy.
  3. Martin van Creveld: An update on Trump’s Saber Rattling in the Middle East.
  4. William Lind warns about the cost of threat inflation.

By the way, US analysis about Iran has consistently been wrong.

  1. Fear Iran’s nukes, coming very soon since 1984.
  2. Stratfor: Iran’s Hard-Liners lose the election. Big changes ahead. – From March 2016. Nope.
  3. Stratfor: Iran’s leaders face their greatest challenge. – From January 2018. They’re doing OK so far.
  4. Ellen Wald: Has another revolution begun in Iran? – From January 2018. No revolution yet.

Two good books about Iran.

A History of Iran: Empire of the Mind by Michael Axworthy (2008).

Iran Awakening: A Memoir of Revolution and Hope by Shirin Ebadi (2006). She is an Iranian lawyer, a former judge, and Nobel Laureate (Peace Prize, 2002). The moving, inspiring memoir of one of the great women of our times

A History of Iran: Empire of the Mind
Available at Amazon.
Iran Awakening: A Memoir of Revolution and Hope
Available at Amazon.

16 thoughts on “The facts about the incident in the Gulf. Drifting to war”

  1. It’s not clear from the video that something was actually being removed, only that some kind of small object was held near the ship and then stored. Would it not be more logical for Iran to film, photograph or sample the ship hull, if they had any interest in finding out who did it and accuse those parties? Or even to assess their own weaponry effectiveness? Removing any evidence does not make sense as the type of weapon will be easily determined by damage, residue, reported flight pattern and so on. Even showing “made in Iran” on the captured object can still be dismissed easily if it was the only evidence found. Therefore the risk of retrieving your own weapon seems way too high with little gain.

    1. John,

      Yes, the video is too blurry for useful analysis.

      Forensic analysis of the explosion sites will reveal much. There are confusing reports of what’s happening around the ship.

      Also, Iran is providing little information. Just broad denials. No specific rebuttals to the US govt’s story. This is common. Iraq had no nukes, but gave weak (even weird) rebuttals to the bold confident (and false) US stories. Oddities of life.

  2. The main issue is that we can trust nobody. When it is not important if you are caught lying without any consequence then any discussion is without any value. The lying party just have to shift the focus. If the American government want a war they will do so. The winner is always right. The American electors are the only people who can change this without the need of using violence. Their record are not promising.

    1. Finn,

      “The main issue is that we can trust nobody.”

      That’s an important point. We’re shifting from a high trust society (rare) to a low trust society (common). But there is another perspective …

      “The American electors are the only people who can change this without the need of using violence.”

      Yes, that’s that key. The fulcrum. We are the cause. To see why we don’t care if our tribal leaders lie to us: Politics in modern America: A users’ guide for journalists and reformers.

      1. Hi Larry,

        That is not the point. I am not accusing the electors. However if there is no decency, no will to obey and respect the institutions then the state no longer exists. Then the anarchy is the rule. Do we really want that. I think no.

        But the facts are if you have people who think they are above the law (the contract we have with each other) then the people has to remove them. It is simple not fancy, however it has to happen. What is going on in America has past the point of what is acceptable. Americans are no more ignorant than in other democracies however they have to make up their minds. Do they want to be treated as cattle or do they want that their leaders are following the law. Larry you like to exchange arguments. I too, however only if this exchange are genuine.

      2. Finn,

        “I am not accusing the electors.”

        True. I am accusing the “electors” – aka citizens. We are the crew of the Republic, electing the officers. We’re not passengers. We have responsibility to hold the leaders accountable. If we don’t than the Republic is finished – and we can speculate about who will rule us.

        “However if there is no decency, no will to obey and respect the institutions then the state no longer exists. Then the anarchy is the rule.”

        Don’t worry. The State will continue to exist. There is no basis – zero, nada, zip – to expect the State to collapse in America. We are evolving into pleasant peasants – apthetic, passive, accepting of what we are told. We will be easily ruled.

  3. I want to thank the editor for providing extremely interesting and useful topics and discussion. I have been following this site for years but decided today, on Father’s Day, to finally register and comment. As per this specific topic, all I can say is, here we go again!

    1. Craig,

      Thank you for the feedback! It is always appreciated, good or ill.

      By the nature of the FM website project, probing matters on the edge of the known, we assault the truths of all tribes. It’s not popular.

  4. This will certainly be useful to the Democrats. On the bright side, It will take their minds off of the other hoax, Russian collusion/obstruction.

  5. The Man Who Laughs

    My first thought when I heard about a mine supposedly being removed was “Who attaches an explosive device to a ship above the waterline and then removes it unexploded?” The answer I got was someone collecting protection money. I wondered if this could actually have been nonstate actors, maybe some rogue IRGC guys looking for a payday. I’m far from confident of that answer, though.

    MY second thought was that it would make no sense whatsoever for someone staging a false flag to shoot up a tanker above the waterline and then go yelling “Mine!” or “Torpedo!” in a crowded shipping lane because that’s too easy to check. This led to the third thought that since the information coming out of our government does not compute, maybe they just started issuing statements before they had the facts. Dumb, but not out of the range of possibility for this crew.

    The we got this report in the New York Times about our people waging cyberwar on the Russian power grid and not telling Trump because he might tell the Russians about it, and I wonder if this is somehow related. And I think that this like a plot out of 24. I’m wondering now if someone is trying to stage something or maybe provoke Trump into a reaction that can be used as grounds for impeachment or 25th Amendment, because the sniffer dogs are looking at the paper trail for the Russia Hoax. I believe you once compared life in America to the planet Arrakis, where you can see the worm sign, but you don’t really know what’s going on down there. Larry, there’s a big old worm over there.

    My final thought is that I have no idea what the hell is going on around here. And I feel like cuing up ‘Something Funny Going On” by Dave Grusin, which was the music they played at the end of “And Justice For All”

  6. The Man Who Laughs: “My first thought when I heard about a mine supposedly being removed was “Who attaches an explosive device to a ship above the waterline and then removes it unexploded?” The answer I got was someone collecting protection money.”

    I have been wondering the same thing. So far as I can tell, mines are normally attached below the waterline for two reasons: concealment and greater effectiveness at completely destroying the target. Concealment may not have been an issue here. It would seem that the purpose was to cause damage without sinking the ships; that would be consistent with the mines as a threat. Another reason to attach a mine above the water line would be to allow for remote controlled detonation (radio waves do not penetrate seawater). Careful choice of location for the event would also be consistent with the primary purpose being a threat, not maximum damage. The removal of the mine may well have been removing evidence after it failed to explode.

    Iran has just threatened to openly violate the nuclear agreement; so a threat to significantly impede the flow of oil through the Strait of Hormuz might be of a piece with that. If Iran did this, they must see it as serving some purpose. So what purpose might be served by Iranian threats? What does Iran want?

    I confess that I am not well informed on the current state of sanctions against Iran. My impression is that they are causing Iran great pain and that Europe and Japan are doing very little to alleviate that pain. If so, then Iran might be trying to get Europe and Japan to defy the U.S. by actively circumventing the sanctions. They might well see threats as advancing that goal. Perhaps Iran doing this is not as stupid as it first appears.

    1. Mike,

      While your reasoning is interesting, it does not help. Equally plausible stories can be devised for a false flag attack by the US – or some of the many other players in the Middle East “Great Game.”

      We need evidence, not stories. Verified evidence, not tales of evidence provided by officials who have a long history of lying under such circumstances. My guess is that we won’t get it.

    2. Your mention of the mines above the waterline made me think. They seem fairly high above, something like 7′ so they weren’t attached by a combat swimmer.

      So much seems fishy, things don’t add up. More needs to be learned about how damage was done before we can even speculate.

      I’m waiting for that data.

  7. What interests me is that the hole and the ‘other thing’ are at more or less the same level. The captain of the ship asserted that it was attacked by missiles or some other flying object. If that were the case I’d not expect them to line up quite so well. It certainly looks like someone drove up in a boat and stuck something to the hull.

    But then that’s not really the question, it’s who did it, and who sent them. I doubt anyone wants war directly, but if it’s a false flag attack, I suspect the motive would be to get the EU to drop out of the nuclear monitoring deal and re-impose sanctions to turn the screws on Iran and cause the economy and then government to collapse.

    OTOH Iran could have been wanting to make a point Mafia protection style about all the horrible things that could happen in the neighbourhood. The timing with the visit of the Japanese looks ideal. Because (as many have been) people would absolve Iran because who’d do that just prior to the visit?

    1. Steve,

      “If that were the case I’d not expect them to line up quite so well.”

      Are you an expert in the dynamics of modern missiles?

      “I suspect the motive ”

      How many of the local news services do you read? How many of the local languages do you speak? How much do you know about the leaders of the various nations and insurgent groups, so you can speculate about their motives?

      I am uncertain why you feel capable about making an educated estimate about these matters.

  8. Larry Kummer: “Equally plausible stories can be devised for a false flag attack by the US – or some of the many other players … We need evidence, not stories.”

    I agree. One should not assume that things are always as they seem. But one should also not assume that things are never as they seem. I was attempting to answer the question: Is it plausible that Iran is really responsible? I conclude that it is. That is contrary to some claims that there is no possibility that Iran is responsible. As to whether Iran is actually responsible, I continue to withhold judgement.

    It seems that Iran’s oil exports are down 80% from before Trump’s withdrawal from the nuclear deal. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-iran-oil-exports-idUSKCN1SN2G4 They may have concluded that they can not wait Trump out. Europe and Japan can probably help them, but only at the risk of significant damage to their trade with the USA. Iran might well be desperate enough to try a long shot strategy to get the Europe and Japan to take those risks.

    Maybe it was the U.S. deep state or non-state actors. But those provide no explanation for why the Iranians were removing whatever it was from the side of that tanker. The attacks appear to have been designed to do limited damage; that would be consistent with deep state action, but does not seem plausible for non-state actors. But none of that is actual evidence.

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