President Donald Trump’s relations with other nations too often escalate until reaching the brink. Fortunately, the tensions so far have been defused just in time.
We can only hope it happens again with the latest showdown between the U.S. and Iran. If this situation gets out of control, lives could be on the line — as in the lives of U.S. servicemen who will be on the front lines.
On Friday, Trump called Iran “a nation of terror” and blamed it for recent attacks on oil tankers near the Strait of Hormuz. His comment came a day after the release of footage purporting to show Iran’s Revolutionary Guard removing an unexploded mine from the Japanese-owned tanker Kokuka Courageous.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Adviser John Bolton have left no doubt where they stand. Bolton in particular believes the U.S. should have attacked Iran long ago.
It is impossible to watch these events unfold, however, without being reminded of the run-up to the Iraq War and the role manipulated intelligence played.
Who can forget Secretary of State Colin Powell going before the United Nations with a slide show purporting to show mobile chemical weapons labs that, when all the dust had settled, we learned never existed?
We already have contradictory reports about the oil tanker bombings. The owner of the Kokuka Courageous said its sailors saw “flying objects” before the attack, not mines.
“Company president Yutaka Katada said Friday he believes the flying objects seen by the sailors could have been bullets,” reported CBS news. “He denied any possibility of mines or torpedoes because the damage was above the ship’s waterline. He called reports of a mine attack ‘false.’”
U.S. Sen. Hiram Warren Johnson is supposed to have said in 1918, “The first casualty when war comes is truth.” And certainly Americans have experience with manufactured stories about exploding ships being used as a pretext for war, from Havana Harbor at the start of the Spanish-American War to the Gulf of Tonkin at the outset of the Vietnam War.
At this point, it is impossible to know who to believe, and if anyone were to speculate who has the most to gain from all this, it’s Saudi Arabia, which would like nothing more than for the U.S. to start shooting at their main regional rival.
A bipartisan group of U.S. senators is trying to stop a U.S. arms sale to the Saudis, weapons that would no doubt contribute to the humanitarian crisis in Yemen.
Trump remains firmly in support of the arms sale, focusing on the jobs such sales mean for Americans. He has been less eager to put U.S. troops in harm’s way in situations where the stakes are high.
We hope Iran is just another case of Trump talking tough. We do not need a repeat of the Iraq War.