By Amy Goodman & Denis Moynihan
“Time is terribly short, but a strike can still succeed.” —John Bolton, in a March 26, 2015, New York Times op-ed headlined, “To Stop Iran’s Bomb, Bomb Iran”
President Donald Trump campaigned as an isolationist, criticizing foreign military entanglements. As far back as 2013, he tweeted, “Can you believe that the Afghan war is our ‘longest war’ ever -bring our troops home, rebuild the U.S., make America great again.” He has made the point repeatedly as president. In an April 2018 press conference, discussing Syria, Trump said: “I want to get out. I want to bring our troops back home. I want to start rebuilding our nation. We will have, as of three months ago, $7 trillion in the Middle East over the last 17 years. We get nothing — nothing out of it, nothing.”
Despite his rhetoric, Trump’s every move in the Middle East now seems committed to conflict and potentially to war with Iran. John Bolton is clearly at the vanguard, with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo backing him up.
Iranian diplomat Seyed Hossein Mousavian is a former senior negotiator for Iran on the nuclear issue, and currently a research scholar at Princeton University. Mousavian expressed his concerns this week on the “Democracy Now!” news hour:
“I expected such a situation after Ambassador John Bolton was nominated as national security adviser,” he said. Noting as well the influential roles of key Trump allies, Mousavian concluded, “The four B’s team — John Bolton, [Israeli Prime Minister] Bibi Netanyahu, [the crown princes of Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi] bin Salman and bin Zayed — now have excellent position at the White House to push the U.S. [into] the dream they have had for years and years and years — to drag the U.S. into a war with Iran.”
Citing at least half a dozen unnamed Trump administration officials, The New York Times reported this week that the Pentagon has submitted plans to ship 120,000 U.S. troops to the region in response to Iranian threats. While he denied the report, Trump declared nevertheless: “Now would I do that? Absolutely. But I have not planned for that. If we did that, we’d send a hell of a lot more troops than that.” The White House has ordered an aircraft carrier strike group and bomber wing to the region, as Bolton stated, “to send a clear and unmistakable message to the Iranian regime that any attack on United States interests … will be met with unrelenting force.”
British Army Maj. Gen. Christopher Ghika, a key commander of the multinational force deployed to Iraq and Syria, refuted the U.S. allegations, saying, “There’s been no increased threat from Iranian-backed forces in Iraq and Syria.” He was quickly rebutted by a spokesperson from U.S. Central Command, who said an attack from Iran was possibly “imminent.”
In the midst of these conflicting statements, the U.S. ordered nonessential personnel to vacate its sprawling “Green Zone” embassy complex in Baghdad, just 100 miles from the Iranian border. While U.S. officials have released photos of small Iranian boats with missiles, many observers in Europe, Iraq and the United States Congress say the missiles are likely defensive.
Meanwhile, U.S. ally Saudi Arabia is reporting that two empty oil tankers were sabotaged as they returned to be loaded with oil bound for the U.S. Once again, they have not said who did it.
The Trump administration is setting up a potential flashpoint, with U.S. and Iranian forces in close proximity. Any accident or skirmish could serve as a pretext for U.S. military escalation.
Bolton has not hidden his desire to effect regime change in Iran, in Venezuela, in Cuba and beyond. He beats the drums of war, but as a young Yale University graduate in 1970 with a draft number that likely would have landed him in Vietnam, he quickly joined the Maryland National Guard to avoid deployment. He wrote in his Yale 25th anniversary yearbook, “I confess I had no desire to die in a Southeast Asian rice paddy.”
Now, whispering into the ear of Trump, who received five draft deferments during Vietnam, including one in the spring of 1968 for “bone spurs,” John Bolton, along with Trump, is willing to send 120,000 or more U.S. troops into war.
Now is the time for everyone — including the anti-war movement here in the U.S., members of Congress and, yes, any dissidents within the Trump administration — to join with countries around the world, to declare forcefully to the chicken hawks: No war with Iran.