The Gulf of Oman oil tanker issue

The damage sustained by two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman has resulted in the Trump administration immediately claiming that it was a deliberate attack by Iran. As usual, it claims to have evidence supporting its charges but the US government has lied so blatantly and so often in support of war that any reasonable person would wait until that evidence is examined by credible neutral third parties before making any judgment.

James North looks at what we really know about the incident and how the New York Times once again played its role as part of the warmongering propaganda system by giving great prominence to the alarmist claims of the White House officials who have long been urging war with Iran, that this was a deliberate attack by that country, while relegating all the doubts about those claims to the end of the article.

The lead front-page New York Times report on Saturday is one sign of the bias. Paragraph after paragraph reported the U.S. version of the June 13 attack on 2 oil tankers, citing “officials,” “President Trump,” “a senior official,” and “a grainy black-and-white American military video.”

Only when readers got to paragraphs 8 and 9 did we learn:

–“. . . others said the (video) footage fell short of proving Iran’s culpability”

— and that the Japanese owner of one of the tankers questioned that his ship had even been attacked by mines, “saying it had been struck by a flying object.”

The Israeli reporter, Zvi Bar’el, used a different approach to raise doubts about the U.S. version of the attacks. Bar’el, a longstanding expert on the Mideast, argued that such a strike “goes against Iran’s policy, which seeks to neutralize any pretext for a military clash in the Gulf.”

Bar’el adds, perfectly logically:

. . . Iran is sure that the United States is only looking for an excuse to attack it. Any violent initiative on Tehran’s part could only make things worse and bring it close to a military conflict, which it must avoid.

None of the mainstream media has connected Israel to Trump’s escalation against Iran. Benjamin Netanyahu has long tried to provoke America to attack the Islamic state, and in the past Israeli intelligence has been the source for some of the extreme claims about the alleged Iranian threat to Middle East peace. Trump himself is interested in money, and he already admitted that his top donor, the pro-Israel gambling magnate Sheldon Adelson, advised him to hire as his national security adviser John Bolton, the notorious hawk who is pushing the anti-Iran policy. This Trump-Adelson-Bolton connection has gone almost completely unreported in the mainstream.

North says that one hopeful sign that the pro-war propaganda in the US media is not as successful as it once was is that the comments section to the NYT article was blisteringly hostile and “almost unanimously opposed to a U.S. war with Iran and suspicious of the Trump administration’s version of events.” As North and Philip Weiss report:

The most remarkable exception to this pattern is the “Readers’ Comments” on the NYT editorial. There were 473 of them before the Times closed the discussion, and we could not find a single one that is supportive of war or of U.S. efforts to continue pressure on Iran. So Bret Stephens gets to spur on a war in his Times column, but the paper’s readers are universally against the idea. Moreover, they hold the Times responsible and see through the equivocations in the editorial. Several point out that the press was the handmaiden of the Iraq disaster.

These readers have been well-educated by the last 20 years. They are privileged people (a definition of Times readership) and they have lost illusions about the American force for good in the world and are openly conspiracy-minded about false-flags and unspoken alliances.

The 473 commenters actually did the Times‘s job for it, by expressing an acerbic skepticism about the facts (including citing the Gulf of Tonkin lies in 1964), and then by blaming the U.S. for the confrontation and condemning it. A good number bring up Israel and Saudi Arabia.

They proceed to give a sample of the comments that is well worth reading.


  1. Rob Grigjanis says

    “Gulf of Tonkin” were the first words to pop into my head when I heard about this. Yeah, why would Iran do, or sanction, such an act? It makes no sense.

  2. Dunc says

    It’s also worth noting that the “attack” coincided with Shinzo Abe’s visit to Iran -- a visit which was a fairly significant for the Iranians, as Japan was until recently one of a relatively few countries still buying significant amounts of Iranian oil, and this is the first visit to Iran by a Japanese leader in over 40 years.

  3. blf says

    (This is a reconstructed and redacted cross-post from poopyhead’s current Political Madness All the Time thread here at FtB.)

    An analysis of the situation in Al Jazeera, Is Iran to blame for suspected attacks on Gulf tankers? As the title suggests, it mostly focuses on Iran and the unlikelihood Iran is responsible, and does not mention the Bolton et al kooks nor too many other factors outside Iran. One intriguing quote:

    “Consider the coincidence of these attacks with Abe’s landmark trip to Tehran, the presence of Russian crew on Norwegian-owned Front Altair, the proximity of the incident site to Iran’s territorial waters, and finally the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s emphasis that ‘resistance’ does not mean military action, and you will realise Tehran is not the culprit,” [Hamidreza Azizi, professor of international relations at Shahid Beheshti University in Tehran,] said.

    “It sounds like a provocative false-flag operation staged by Iran’s regional nemeses so they could play the victim and portray Tehran as the chief devil in the room even as they are trying to torpedo any chance of negotiations between Tehran and Washington and dragging Iran into a conflict they crave for but cannot win alone,” Azizi added.

  4. mnb0 says

    It’s good news for Venezuela though.
    One of Donald the Clown’s best characteristics is his short attention span.

  5. says

    the Trump administration immediately claiming that it was a deliberate attack by Iran

    … and a remarkably incompetent one, if it was. The Iranian military has access to high explosives, wire-guided missiles, etc. That’s one of the problems with the “state sponsored terror” meme: one would expect a state to be more effective than this.
    (Need I add that the CIA are the worlds most prolific practitioners of state-sponsored terrorism?)

  6. Holms says

    It has been stated that the tanker was struck by either a mine or a torpedo. We can discount both of those on the simple fact that the tanker is a highly vulnerable unarmoured vehicle; a modern mine or torpedo detonating amidships would simply rip such a ship open. It would have been on the bottom in minutes.

    Instead, we can see that this damage was caused by something calculated to look like a weapon but stop well short of lethality. The mark of someone looking to agitate for war, which Iran decidedly does not want, but USA does. Who could it be????

  7. blf says

    the tanker is a highly vulnerable unarmoured vehicle; a modern mine or torpedo detonating amidships would simply rip such a ship open.

    Maybe, maybe not. For instance, in 1987 the Bridgeton hit a mine, Kuwaiti Tanker Under US Escort Hits Mine In Golf. It did not sink, no-one was injured, and the cited report implies the tanker was able to continue, including taking on a load of oil. Ye Pfffft! of All Knowledge says the damage was limited to a dent in the outer hull — pointing out the Bridgeton and other modern tankers are double-hulled — and that the escorting naval vessels, after the strike, took position behind the tanker and let it “break trail”. From memory, the much larger steel-double-hulled ship was considered less vulnerable than the partly-aluminum-single-hulled warships of the time. However, memory also says the mine was of WWI-era design (albeit built, possibly by N.Korea, much more recently). That strike was near the bow (not amidships).

    Whilst not a “modern mine strike amidships”, the incident does cast doubt on the assertion. (Modern torpedoes do seem they could be a different story, but I have no recollection of a torpedo strike on an equivalent tanker for comparison.)

  8. lanir says

    My first thought (before cynicism actually kicked in) was that the most likely actor was a rogue group and not the Iranian government. All the government had to do to say no to Mr. Abe is…actually say no to Mr. Abe. An attack on a Japanese ship nearby while he’s talking to them makes Iran look weak, not strong. Nobody in their right mind would do this, even awful people. It does not forward any recognizable goal.

    I guess my instant reaction to world events is the very unamerican thought that they aren’t all about us.

    Then the cynicism kicked in and my thoughts largely reflected the other comments.

  9. jrkrideau says

    @ 8 lanir
    /the most likely actor was a rogue group

    Quite likely. The CIA is a rogue group.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *