Iran stands accused by the US of attacking two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman. But should we accept the US’s claims at face value? Or is there more to the story?

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  • On June 13, 2019, two oil tankers were attacked near the Strait of Hormuz while transiting the Gulf of Oman.
  • The Strait of Hormuz is a tiny strip of water that lies between Iran to the north and the United Arab Emirates to the south. 
  • It’s like a narrow S bend before you get from the Gulf of Oman into the Persian Gulf. 
  • A third of the world’s liquefied natural gas and almost 20% of total global oil consumption passes through the strait.
  • As of 2011, an average of 14 tankers per day passed out of the Persian Gulf through the Strait carrying 17 million barrels of crude oil.
  • To traverse the Strait, ships pass through the territorial waters of Iran and Oman.
  • They are allowed transit via the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea
  • Alexander listeners will remember the Gulf of Oman as the place where Alexander marched his men through The Gedrosian Desert 
  • The the Straits of Hormuz are where his admiral Nearchus nearly starved to death because there were no water or food drops while he was exploring the coastline while Alexander was making plans to invade Arabia
  • It’s where Dubai is.
  • The Japanese Kokuka Courageous and Norwegian Front Altair were attacked, allegedly with limpet mines or flying objects, causing fire damage to both ships.
  • American and Iranian military personnel responded to the attacks and were involved in rescuing crew members from the ships.
  • The attacks took place on the same day that Ayatollah Khamenei met with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzō Abe in Iran.
  • Abe was acting as an intermediary between Donald Trump and Khamenei.
  • Almost immediately, the US, Saudi and UK government blamed Iran. 
  • The background is that on May 8, 2018, the United States withdrew from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action with Iran
  • the US has been imposing increasingly restrictive sanctions on Iran for over a year now, and has managed to dramatically decrease Iranian oil exports and coerce unwilling nations to abide by these sanctions using the threat of secondary sanctions.
  • This was a deal made back in 2015 between the UN Security Council, Germany, and the EU with Iran. 
  • Iran agreed to eliminate its stockpile of medium-enriched uranium, cut its stockpile of low-enriched uranium by 98%, and reduce by about two-thirds the number of its gas centrifuges for 13 years.
  • And not to build any new heavy-water facilities for the same period of time.
  • They also agreed to let the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) will have regular access to all Iranian nuclear facilities to monitor their progress. 
  • In return, Iran would receive relief from U.S., European Union, and United Nations Security Council nuclear-related sanctions.
  • In May 2019 the IAEA certified that Iran was abiding by the main terms of the deal, but that hasn’t stopped Trump and Bolton from treating Iran like the guy who just walked into the office with dog shit on his shoe. 
  • Also in May 2019 there was the first Gulf of Oman incident
  • Four ships were damaged in that incident, including two Saudi Arabian registered oil tankers, a Norwegian registered oil tanker, and an Emirati registered bunkering ship.
  • The US blamed Iran for those attacks as well. 
  • But an international investigation, led by the United Arab Emirates, didn’t find name any culprit. 
  • They did suggest the damage was caused by limpet mines planted by divers using “fast boats”. 
  • A limpet mine is a type of naval mine attached to a target by magnets.
  • So named because of its superficial similarity to the limpet, a type of sea snail that clings tightly to rocks or other hard surfaces.
  • That’s also my nickname for Ray. 
  • He’s my little limpet. 
  • clings tightly to my hard surfaces 
  • Whenever tensions with the US have increased, Iranian officials have threatened to close the Straits of Hormuz.
  •  in the logic of “If we can’t sell our oil, neither can the Gulf states!”.
  • Can it legally do that? 
  • Well yes and no. 
  • The Iranian gov is a signatory to the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. 
  • So it’s committed to avoid any action that would violate the convention.
  • However, at the time that Iran signed the convention it announced that it would only recognize the “right of transit passage” for countries that had also joined the convention.
  • Guess which country DIDN’T sign the convention? 
  • The good ol’ US of A. 
  • And guess whose navy is in the Straits of Hormuz? 
  • You guess it. 
  • They have send an aircraft carrier strike group and B-52 bombers to the region.
  • “ready to defend US interests in the region”
  • So here’s the thing. 
  • The US won’t even sign the fucking UNCLOS because they claim it will limit their capacity for self-defense. 
  • That was Jeanne Kirkpatrick’s claim in 2004
  • Of the “Kirkpatrick Doctrine”. 
  • The US also have an issue with Part XI of the Convention which concerns deep seabed portions and mining of potentially valuable metals.
  • But they also claim that if Iran prevent shipping in their own territorial waters they will use force against them, because Iran have signed the convention. 
  • So back to these recent attacks. 
  • One tanker was Japanese. 
  • The second vessel, the Front Altair, is Norwegian owned and 50% Russian crewed (the others being Filipinos).
  • It is owned by Frontline, a massive tanker leasing company that also has a specific record of being helpful to Iran in continuing to ship oil despite sanctions.
  • That Iran would target a Japanese ship  – while the Ayatollah was in a meeting with the Japanese PM – and a friendly Russian crewed ship is a ludicrous allegation.
  • It is worth noting that John Bolton was meeting with United Arab Emirates ministers two weeks ago – both ships had just left the UAE.
  • U.S. Central Command said the two vessels were hit by limpet mines, which are attached to boats below the waterline using magnets.
  • And the US are claiming they have video of Iranian ship – taken from an American P-8 Spy Plane –  removing an unexploded limpet mine from the Japanese ship. 
  • HOWEVER – within a day of the attacks, the CEO of the Japanese tanker said it was struck by a flying projectile. 
  • sailors saw something flying toward the vessel just before the explosion and that the impact was well above the waterline.
  • ABOVE the waterline
  • limpet mines are usually placed BELOW the waterline – otherwise they do limited damage
  • the intent was likely to send a message and harass rather than cause significant damage
  • So what are the main theories? 
  • Iran did it. 
  • Rogue elements within the Iranian Revolutionary Guard (IRGC) did it 
  • The Saudis did it 
  • The US did it 
  • Remember the Maine
  • and Gulf of Tonkin
  • The official US narrative falling part within 24 hours 
  • Who stands to benefit? 
  • Crude prices have been dropping since March
  • As I said on this show a few weeks ago
  • crude oil prices are still up 25% since the start of the year 
  • But dropping
  • Peaked in April at 50% above the start of the year
  • This didn’t really have much of an impact 
  • Not yet anyway
  • Despite fears about threats to the Hormuz supply lines
  • Prices have been dropping due to oversupply 
  • Despite 
  • US-lead VZ sanctions / military threats, have reduced their output 
  • US-lead Iranian sanctions for dubious reasons have reduced their ability to sell 
  • US-lead theory on limpet mines falls over in 24 hours 
  • Suggests US brazenly lying
  • Speaking of lies
  • on May 31 a suicide bomber attacked a US convoy in Kabul, killing four Afghan passers-by and wounding four American servicemen and at least three civilians. 
  • The Taliban were not shy about taking responsibility– their spokesman, Zabiullah Mujahid, spoke to the Associate Press and boasted of the attack.
  • Pompeo painted the incident as one of “a series of attacks instigated by the Islamic Republic of Iran and its surrogates against American and allied interests.”
  • Pompeo’s statement is so embarrassing as to be cringe-worthy. It is either a lie in the service of war propaganda or a display of such bottomless ignorance on the part of America’s chief diplomat as to be grounds for impeachment (or perhaps just consignment to an asylum).
  • The Taliban are almost entirely drawn from the ranks of the Sunni Muslim Pushtun ethnic group in Afghanistan, some 44% of the country’s population of 35 million.
  • Remember As we reported on a few weeks ago, “Bolton has staffed up the NSC with people who share his views. Last week, he hired Richard Goldberg, a noted Iran hawk, to run the administration’s pressure campaign against the country.”
  • China, India, Japan, biggest customers of Iranian oil. 
  • Beijing usually backs its trade partner – but experts say the trade war with the US and problems with Huawei may have changed the equation
  • According to Trump (Nov 18): Oil prices getting lower. Great! Like a big Tax Cut for America and the World. Enjoy! $54, was just $82. Thank you to Saudi Arabia, but let’s go lower!
  • That was Thanks to Saudi Arabia pushing oil production to an all-time high
  • The argument is that lower oil prices gives consumers more money to spend certainly seems entirely logical.
  • And some economists think lower oil prices lead to inflation. 
  • As people have more money to spend, prices go up. 
  • But they are still spending the same amount of money 
  • If petrol / gas prices go down, and you spend that money on beer, the same amount of money is getting spent 
  • And declining oil prices leads to declining revenue for oil and gas companies.
  • Companies that produce oil, cut back on costs. 
  • Which might mean laying off employees. 
  • Which means they have less money to spend. 
  • Which means the economy suffers.
  • Newton’s third law of motion states:
  • “For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.”
  • Fracking is less expensive than drilling – so US oil is produced more cheaply
  • and the US is now a net exporter of oil 
  • How many wars has Iran started since 1979?
  • The Iran–Iraq War was an armed conflict between Iran and Iraq, beginning on 22 September 1980, when Iraq invaded Iran
  • On May 5th, a Sunday, the White House issued an unusual communiqué—from the national-security adviser, John Bolton, not the Pentagon—announcing that a battleship-carrier strike group, led by the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln, and a bomber task force, including B-52s, were deploying off Iran’s coast. The Lincoln was headed to the Middle East anyway, but its deployment was fast-tracked, U.S. officials told me. Bolton claimed that the Islamic Republic was engaged in “a number of troubling and escalatory indications and warnings,” but did not provide specifics. The Administration’s goal, he said, was “to send a clear and unmistakable message to the Iranian regime that any attack on United States interests or on those of our allies will be met with unrelenting force.” Bolton, who was a key player behind the U.S. war in Iraq, advocated bombing Iran before he joined the Trump White House.
  • Five days later, on May 10th, the Pentagon announced a second display of force: the U.S.S. Arlington and a battery of Patriot missile systems would join the Abraham Lincoln. The Arlington carries U.S. Marines and an array of aircraft, landing craft, and weapons systems to support amphibious assault, special-operations teams, and “expeditionary warfare.” A Patriot battery defends against ballistic missiles and aircraft. Both are meant to respond to “indications of heightened Iranian readiness to conduct offensive operations against U.S. forces and our interests,” the Pentagon said.
  • General Wesley Clark, 2001:
  • “I just got this down from upstairs” — meaning the Secretary of Defense’s office — “today.” And he said, “This is a memo that describes how we’re going to take out seven countries in five years, starting with Iraq, and then Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and, finishing off, Iran.”