By James North / Mondoweiss
The Biden administration is provocatively risking a military clash with Iran in the Persian Gulf that could even lead to a wider war. Most of the mainstream U.S. press is paying no attention at all. The Washington Post did report the news, but distorted it so badly that if fighting does break out it will look like Iran is entirely to blame. And Israel’s role in the potential crisis is, once again, whitewashed.
Here’s what is happening. The Post reported last week that the U.S. is considering stationing U.S. Marines on board commercial (not necessarily American) ships in the Persian Gulf region to stop Iran from seizing them. A month earlier, the Post had briefly reported that the U.S. Navy had stopped an Iranian effort to seize two commercial oil tankers — neither of them registered in the U.S. — off the coast of Oman. Left out of that article was any explanation for Iran’s actions. And Israel was nowhere mentioned.
You have to look elsewhere, such as the valuable Responsible Statecraft, to learn the larger truth. Trita Parsi, a respected Iranian-American scholar, pointed out that the U.S. has in fact already been confiscating Iranian oil on the high seas. “Predictably,” Parsi writes, “Iran has responded by targeting oil supplies of countries that collaborated with Biden on this matter.” He notes:
This has then prompted Biden to beef up U.S. military presence in the Persian Gulf to prevent Iranian actions that only began as a result of Biden’s own policies.
Paul Pillar, another sensible expert, also noted, “The last time the United States placed armament and military personnel, ready to fight, on ocean-going commercial vessels was during the world wars of the 20th Century.” He points out, “It was the United States, not Iran, that began the latest round of going after another nation’s tankers and seizing its oil.” And he calmly adds:
With different U.S. policies, this situation could have been avoided. Iran has not intercepted shipping because Iranians have some genetic malice that compels them to do such things. As with many other Iranian policies and actions, this practice is reactive.
Also completely ignored in the minimal mainstream reporting is Israel’s violent years-long campaign against Iran, including attacks on the high seas and extensive sabotage efforts inside Iran, even including the murder of an Iranian nuclear scientist.
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Israel’s aim all along has been to provoke the U.S. into an armed clash with Iran, in large part as an effort to set back or destroy Tehran’s nuclear program. Less than two months ago, optimism for a U.S./Iran agreement was growing as Iran edged toward pausing its nuclear enrichment program in return for some relief from U.S.-imposed economic sanctions. Now that U.S. Marines may be stationed on oil tankers and shooting at Iranians, that de facto deal looks like it may be off.
The mainstream U.S. media failure is truly hard to believe. The media’s anti-Iran bias is no surprise. The erasure of Israel’s role, including its violent campaign against Tehran, is similarly to be expected. But the fact that so far only a single newspaper has even published a report about the dangerous U.S. escalation is a real jaw-dropper.
Sina Toossi is another respected Iranian-American scholar (who, like Parsi, is no supporter of the present regime in Tehran). He didn’t hide his disappointment with the U.S. administration:
Biden’s Iran policy is a betrayal of his campaign promises. He is escalating the economic war on 85 million Iranians & provoking a military confrontation in the Persian Gulf. He promised a foreign policy for the middle class, not for the war hawks in Washington.
James North is a Mondoweiss Editor-at-Large, and has reported from Africa, Latin America, and Asia for four decades. He lives in New York City. Follow him on Twitter at @jamesnorth7