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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 6/21/19

Trump Pulls Back from Iran Attack as Bolton and Pompeo Continue to Push for War

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AMY GOODMAN: Let's start in Tehran with professor Mohammad Marandi. Can you talk about the response on ground to hearing this New York Times report, which the Trump administration has not denied and other now news outlets have confirmed, that they were in the midst of a strike; right before the attack happened, with the planes in the air, they called it off?

MOHAMMAD MARANDI: Well, people are viewing the whole story with a significant amount of skepticism. And the reason is that the whole affair, this whole saga, began with the U.S. leaving the nuclear deal, and then, subsequently, Trump imposing economic warfare against Iranians, something which he said specifically also said that these were brutal sanctions. So the escalation began on the American side.

And then the tankers that were struck also were suspicious to the Iranians, because the tankers that were struck a month ago off the coast of the United Arab Emirates were attacked almost immediately after Bolton said the Israelis gave him information about an imminent Iranian attack, which made them suspicious. And then, just recently, right off the Iranian coast, two other tankers were struck, linked to Japan, the tankers, while the Japanese prime minister was in Tehran, the first prime minister from Japan in Tehran for 41 years. And right before he was supposed to meet the Iranian leader, these tankers were struck. And the Americans said they were mines. The company that owned the tanker said they were not mines, they were projectiles coming from the air. All of this makes everything that's going on over the past few days seem very suspicious in the eyes of ordinary Iranians.

And with regards to this particular drone, this is not the first drone that belongs to the United States military that the Iranians have downed. They have downed a number of drones in the past. The United States never denied that. They've recovered the parts. And they've brought down another drone by hacking the computer and landing it safely. And in this particular case, the Iranian foreign minister gave the precise details of where it was hit, and the Iranians also recovered parts of the drone itself. So, the American government narrative here seems suspicious, as well, and therefore, in the eyes of Iranians, everything that comes out of Washington right now has to be looked at with a great deal of skepticism.

AMY GOODMAN: Hossein Salami said Iran shot down the drone to send a clear message to the U.S. that Iran does "not have any intention for war with any country, but we are ready for war." Can you explain the significance of his comments, Professor Marandi?

MOHAMMAD MARANDI: Well, when President Trump says that he can annihilate and destroy Iran, in a tweet, then the Iranians are going to take any move by the U.S. military seriously. When the U.S. president and people in the White House constantly speak about "all options are on the table" and Republican senators calling for strikes on Iran, then that makes the Iranian military much more sensitive. The Iranians are already engaged in defensive actions against the United States. They have to constantly monitor American fighter jets and American ships that are constantly moving close to the Iranian border. And when a drone like this violates Iranian airspace, that basically means that they are looking for places to strike. That's how the Iranians interpret it. So the Iranian military had no option but to shoot down the drone. And the fact that the Americans don't want to wait to see the evidence in the U.N. Security Council also makes this more suspicious.

So, the Iranians have said repeatedly, "We don't want war." That is why we remained within the framework of the nuclear deal. Even one year after the Americans have exited the deal, and the Europeans are in clear violation because they are intimidated by Trump, and the deal is basically a one-sided deal, the Iranians are still abiding by the deal, because they want to decrease sanctions. If the Iranians wanted to increase tensions, they would have left the nuclear deal a year ago.

AMY GOODMAN: Ervand Abrahamian, I want to bring you into this conversation. You're a historian. You wrote a book about the history of Iran, so you have -- and you're from Iran. You know extensively what U.S. involvement with Iran is, back to the U.S. overthrow of the democratically elected leader in 1953, Mohammad Mosaddegh. As you watch what's taking place now, and even if President Trump called off this attack, that was supposedly about to take place Thursday night, it doesn't mean it is not imminent.

ERVAND ABRAHAMIAN: Exactly. I think the long-term agenda in the White House -- maybe not Trump himself, but Bolton, Pompeo -- it's clear what their record is on Iran. They want basically the destruction of the Islamic Republic, maybe even destruction of the state, maybe even the destruction of Iran. So, they have a long record on this. They haven't kept it hidden. And I think they were basically putting into implementation this program.

But, of course, Trump has started, basically, his presidential campaign, and it's not good sense to go into an electoral campaign talking about war. So, I think he has -- as a presidential candidate, he has a vested interest in keeping the, quote, "war issue" basically as low as possible. I wouldn't be surprised that in a few days he comes up and says that he has a secret plan to resolve all the differences with Iran. He'll reveal the secret plan after the election. We've heard all these secret plans before. But whether he himself wants war or not, I don't think that's that important. The people driving policy, making policy, are, in fact, very determined to, from their point of view, solve the problem of Iran.

And this new crisis, we can talk endlessly about the drones, the tankers. As you said, the recent crisis really starts with Trump saying that the nuclear deal was not just a bad deal, but it was the worst deal ever United States has made, and that we need a new deal. Now, if he wanted a new deal, you usually leave a door open for negotiations for a new deal. But after he said that, right away, Pompeo actually had slammed the door. He came up with the 12 commandments to Iran, that Iran had to basically submit to the 12 demands.

Well, we know the 10 lord's demands are quite hard to meet. These 12 demands are actually quite absurd. There's no way Iran could meet these 12 demands. I mean, it would be equivalent to the supreme leader in Iran telling Trump, "Oh, we'll be happy to meet and discuss with you, but you have to meet 12 demands. The first is, you need to sit down and negotiate seriously with Black Lives Matter. If you deal that one, we could discuss. Or that, you know, your democracy is defective because very low percentage of the electorate votes. You have to do something about increasing your electorate participation, then we'll participate in negotiations." Well, these sort of demands would be considered absurd. Similarly, the demands that Pompeo put on Iran were absurd. They weren't really negotiating demands; they were basically saying, "Surrender, submit to everything we demand, and, basically, commit suicide." And this obviously is not acceptable to any regime that wants to survive.

So, from then on, basically, I would say, some sort of military confrontation between U.S. and Iran was inevitable. Now, whether it happens next week or the week after or after the election, if Trump is elected, I think that's basically in the books. There's no way we can avoid, basically, some sort of military confrontation.

AMY GOODMAN: Mohammad Marandi, can you talk about the role of Jared Kushner in supposedly shaping a Middle East peace plan? And what does this have to do with Iran?

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