Is America preparing to go to war with Iran? This is the question dominating discussions around dinner tables as well as boardrooms. Confined not only to the Middle East, where heightened concerns about the fall-out for the volatile region's future forms part of the focus of debates, this is also a major issue around the world. Europe, Central Asia, the Far East and Africa will not be immune from repercussions of such a war if the Trump administration — which is filled with neocon hawks – starts to bomb and then invade Iran.
Here in South Africa, our country is bedevilled by looting and corruption which has devastated the treasury, compounding massive inequalities and monumental job losses, crippling health care while creating a myriad of socio-economic problems. We can ill afford further fuel hikes if America pulls the trigger on Iran.
While there is still uncertainty about whether or not US President Donald Trump will pull back from the brink, or if the rabid ideologues like National Security Adviser John Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will push him to the edge, the current tension has sparked a combination of fear and outrage. Both sentiments are to be expected. We all have every right to fear the devastating consequences of any and all wars; sadly, the evidence for this is evident in too many war-torn countries. We should also be outraged that America doesn't possess any moral or legal ground to lay waste to yet another Muslim-majority country.
Unlike Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria – countries which appear to be allied closely in one way or another with America's regional interests – Iran is a fiercely independent power in its own right. What's more, in contrast to the Assads, Saddams and others in the region who have allowed themselves to dance to the tune of successive US presidents, the revolutionary leadership of Iran is committed firmly to resisting Washington's hegemonic designs.
If, therefore, America under Commander-in-Chief Trump has opted to ape the colonial ambitions of his buddy Benjamin Netanyahu by following the Israeli script endorsed by Bolton and his ilk, what is holding the US back? It cannot be the UN, which has, regrettably, turned into an irrelevant doormat for America's unilateralism. Nor can it be the Arab bloc, which is exasperated by the delay and has been agitating for war. And nor can it be the media, given that most US mainstream outlets push white supremacist ideology and their support for a war is apparently unconditional.
The only obstacle, in fact, is global public opinion which refuses to buy into fake news and false propaganda. In an age of highly politicised social media which transcend man-made boundaries and restrictions in their legitimate demands for Washington to produce tangible evidence to justify war, this phenomenon is powerful, and anything but a pushover.
Public opinion in America itself is reflective of a high degree of scepticism about "intelligence" leaked by Trump's circle of advisers about Iranian "threats". Too many questions are being asked about its credibility and veracity to enable the US President to give the green light for the attack on Iran to begin. Although these leaks have provided cover for the vain attempts to justify the escalating tension —including the deployment of a US naval strike group to the area – the difficulty faced by Bolton and other senior officials is how to neutralise the growing public discourse which warns that a government deception based on faulty intelligence comparable to the fraudulent pretence for invading Iraq in 2003 is under way.
To make matters worse, there is also credible evidence that Israel is playing a key role in this subterfuge. According to Mondoweiss editor-at-large James North, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu has long tried to provoke the US to attack Iran. Furthermore, Israeli intelligence has been the source of some of the extreme claims about the alleged Iranian threat to Middle East peace. In line with what is known publicly about Trump, North writes that the US president has admitted that his main financial backer, the pro-Israel gambling magnate Sheldon Adelson, advised him to hire Bolton.
North notes that none of the mainstream media coverage in America mentions that Israel is a major factor in instigating the rising US hostility to Iran. Unfortunately, South Africa's media platforms have also failed to link Israel's role in provoking the US to strike Iran, and have not adopted an appropriate editorial stance against it.
As if on cue, on 13 June we saw an attack on two oil tankers in the Strait of Hormuz, which was immediately blamed on Iran. If it was intended to be the "9/11" pretext for war, it has thus far failed.
James North argues that Trump's withdrawal of the US from the Iranian nuclear deal; the threat to halt all Iranian oil sales; and warnings of dire consequences for countries which disregard his unilateral sanctions, are all acts of war. He reminds readers that sanctions against Iraq caused the deaths of 500,000 children, which the then Secretary of State Madelaine Albright said "was a price worth paying."
Indicative of growing disdain for another war in the Middle East are various media reports which insist that claims by the White House about Iran don't reflect "intelligence" in any technical sense of the word. "No one has cited a single piece of hard evidence that justifies these claims of threats, let alone any that are 'new', as press leaks have suggested," says one. "All of them appear to be deliberate and gross distortions of actual facts."
Though the odds are seemingly stacked against Iran, the court of public opinion remains unconvinced of any justification for war. The question now is whether or not Trump has painted himself into Israel's corner over war with Iran, and if he get himself out of it.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.