The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

Why Would Iran Attack Tankers?

Well, if it did.

Let me tell a story, possibly apocryphal. Back in the 1970s, the Russian (USSR) ambassador supposedly had a talk with the Pakistani leader of the day. This is what he is reputed to have said.

” I do not know who will be in charge in Moscow in ten, twenty, or even 50 years. But what I do know is that whoever is there will want the same things then, that we do today. You can trust us, not because we pretend we are your friends, but because we are consistent.

Anyway, remember, that we’ll come back to it.

In the meantime, on June 13th there were reports that two tankers had been sunk in the Gulf. Claims were made they were sunk by Iran.

I shrugged. Important people want war between Iran and the United States, and in such a situation it’s hard to know what’s true and what’s not. I moved on with my day.

(I am fundraising to determine how much I’ll write this year. If you value my writing and want more of it, please consider donating.)

But yesterday I discovered an interesting fact. Before the two tankers were sunk, something else happened:

On June 5, 2019, a huge fire consumed a storage facility for oil products at the Shahid Rajaee port in the southern Hormozgan Province. Located west of Bandar Abbas, the Shahid Rajaee port is Iran’s largest container shipping port. Reportedly, a vehicle used for transporting shipping containers exploded and caught fire. Since there were oil products near the site of the explosion, the blaze spread quickly to several tanks and storage sites and caused heavy damage to the port. The spreading fire set off huge explosions which shot fireballs and heavy smoke high into the air.

On June 7, 2019, six Iranian merchant ships were set ablaze almost simultaneously in two Persian Gulf ports.

First, five ships “caught fire” in the port of Nakhl Taghi in the Asaluyeh region of the Bushehr Province. Three of these ships were completely burned and the two others suffered major damage. Several port workers and sailors were injured. As well, at least one cargo ship burst into flames and burned completely at the port of Bualhir, near Delvar. The fire was attributed to “incendiary devices” of “unknown origin.” The local authorities in the Bushehr Province called the fires a “suspicious event” and went no further.

Oh hey.

So, assuming the Iranians did attack the ships, they were retaliating.

Iran has long said that if they can’t get their oil to customers, no one will get oil to customers through the Gulf.


But this has bigger consequences. The real problem is simpler: The US made a deal with the Iranians, under Obama, then repudiated it when the President changed.

The US has arrogated to itself the right to impose sanctions on anyone it wants, for any reason, with no recourse by the victim. It is using this “right” in an attempt to remove Iran’s government.

The US cannot be trusted. Every few years, it changes. You can’t make a deal and be sure it will be honored for any length of time, let alone 10, 20, or 50 years.

Americans who squeal about Trump being an aberration both miss the point (your system allowed him) and are wrong: Bush attacked Iraq based on lies, and everyone knows it. Hilary Clinton promised the Russians that Qaddafi would not be removed, then removed him and gloated about him being killed after being raped by a knife.

The US can’t be trusted.

So the larger consequence is that a coalition of countries, including multiple oil producers, China and Russia are moving to sell and buy oil in a bundle of currencies which does not include the US dollar, and where no payments go through the payment system which the US can control (systems like SWIFT, to slightly oversimplify).

Dollar hegemony is one of the main supports of American hegemony. Misuse of dollar hegemony to attack other countries has brought us to this point.

I’ve been a bit of a broken record on this issue, but that’s because it’s been the obvious consequence of the US Treasury’s misuse of its powers.

Other great powers and their allies can put up with a cruel, even an evil, hegemon. What they will not put up with is a capricious one whom they cannot predict.




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  1. Stirling S Newberry

    This makes no sense for Iran. The phrase “is like the type” is suspicious – because Trump does not use it – he just comes out and says it, rightly or wrongly. And usually he wrong. Since we have internal bugging, usually there is interconvertible proof. Which is lacking. Yet there is a ring of guidance, but with only weasel words. “Deep State” comes to mind, with Trump willing to give credence. It makes no sense for Iran to attack two tankers – they can do much more. (And have done.)

    “Does anyone here know how to play this game?”

  2. bruce wilder

    Gulf of Tonkin? WMD?

  3. Who knows, in any direction and under almost any hypothesis. That said, I thought I’d add that the source for this attack on June 5 on the Iranian oil storage facility is, as far as I can tell, Yossef Bodansky,

    Now, although this guy has often been a peddler for the rottenest meat pushed out by Israeli and neocon spooks (he’s one of those saying Bin Laden was working with Iran ,, he sometimes publishes genuinely factual and interesting material (his details on the specific units and organization of the Russian military mission to Syria were excellent and available nowhere else).

    So, while it’s always pointless and infantile to dismiss news out of hand because of the source, I do think this clarification is useful to make because, as presented in the above post, the report about this attack can seem like it came out from Reuters or AFP (neither of them of course exemplars of neutral reporting, etc.).

  4. Hugh

    It is my understanding that the tankers were damaged, not sunk.

  5. John

    As another commenter said, the tankers were damaged not sunk, but that changes nothing. I agree with your analysis point by point. What would be the source of your information about the damage to Iranian ships and to the port? I am always on the lookout for new reliable sources.

  6. Tom

    Well its escalating now. Also Iran is rapidly bringing itself to breakout enrichment levels. Since they can’t get any nation to respect their rights under the NPT or JCPOA which Europe has refused to aggressively uphold, Iran has stopped returning calls and refuses to negotiate anymore as what is the point from their perspective? The US will just ignore it when they please.

    Its the same thing with regard to the Taliban’s refusal to negotiate with Kabul, they offered surrender in 2001 in exchange for full amnesty and to return home and signed a deal with Karzai. Bush tore it up and ordered Karzai to not honor the deal, and from that point on the Taliban refuses to talk to Kabul as they know the US will override any deal made with Kabul.

  7. Who benefits? Who gains from turning their enemies against each other?

    Who has a history of false flags?

    Not Iran.


    If Khamenei would merely write Trump some flattering love letters like Kim Jong-un does, Iran can have all of the nuclear weapons it desires.

    Kim And I Fell In Love


    Iran isn’t a saint by any means but who is?

    As Newberry says and I agree.

    It makes no sense for Iran to attack two tankers – they can do much more. (And have done.)

    There’s an old saying, a wise adage if you will, that applies and Iran is smart enough to know this and live & survive by it. The free flow of oil is Iran’s bread & butter. It makes no sense for Iran to further hinder its oil production and sales. If that comes to a halt, Iran falls down.

    Here’s an excellent & fitting visual of that adage.

    Don’t Cut Off Your Nose To Spite Your Face

  10. MojaveWolf

    I cannot believe any functioning adult who hasn’t been in a lengthy coma actually thinks Iran made the tankers go boom.

    Either we (the US) did it, or we helped/encouraged some third party to do it.

    If Trump wants an out, he needs to blame that third party pronto (or invent one, why not? a lie that keeps us out of war to make up for a lie that almost got us into war; I’ll settle for such at this point).

    I take the last sentence back; we don’t have to blame anyone; we can just quit pushing forward, let the matter drop, and no one will car; people have gotten that disinterested.

    Should we actually invade, well, that would be really, really bad and possibly rouse more interest in electorally overthrowing our oligarchic powers that be, one can hope.

  11. Ché Pasa

    They aren’t talking about invading Iran. They’re signaling a “strike” or a number of them, the kind of thing the Israelis do in the Middle East and what was done/is being done, endlessly, in Libya, Syria, Iraq and elsewhere in the US’s global war theatres.

    Let’s not forget that Iran has been subject to assassinations, sabotage and all kinds of terrorist and other strikes for decades, not to mention sanctions that have ruined much of the economy and helped immiserate the Iranian people. Not to mention the ginned up Iran/Iraq War which killed millions. In effect, Iran has been warred-upon by the US and ‘the West’since the overthrow of the Shah.

    The Iranian response has been remarkably muted given the levels of provocation they’ve been subjected to. Whether it’s wise, I don’t know.

    But I do know that the saber rattling in Washington and Jerusalem is absurd. Especially given the notorious characters rattling those sabers. It may be that the Iranians simply believe they can wait out the nonsense and ultimately prevail. Time will tell.

    What troubles me is the utter lack of skepticism of Washington’s claims in most of the media — we’ve been down this road too many times — and what appears to be the real fear of even mentioning the possibility of false flag actions perpetrated by the notorious characters mentioned above.

    We the Rabble cannot stop the march to war on Iran if that’s what’s going on–and it looks like that is what’s going on. Not an invasion, but probably air strikes intended to cripple further Iran’s nuclear, military and civil infrastructure.

    The wild card is that Iran may already have or have access to nuclear weapons. If that’s the case, all bets are off…

  12. Tom

    Trump is playing down the shootdown of the drone. It seems he has been regularly talking to Tucker Carlson over the phone who keeps reminding him of his promises to end the wars and that each of our current wars are failures.

    If Tucker can convince Trump to fire Bolton and Pompeo and blacklist/throw them in jail so they never come near Washington again, he will have done more than just repented for supporting the Iraq War, he will have fully atoned for it.

  13. different clue

    It is good that Mr. Trump speaks with Tucker Carlson and gets reminders of these things. Because one may be sure that Vice President Pence speaks with the President often and urges ( instructs?) Trump to keep Pompeo and Bolton in their jobs.

    I can’t remember whether Trump made Stephen Moore ( Club For Growth etc.) an adviser before picking Pence for VP . . . or if he picked Pence first and the Pence suggested Moore among many others. Pence is considered to be Trump’s IV feed back to the Nexus of Koch. Making Pence the VP made it a KochBro Incorporated Vice Presidency.

    I wonder how the KochBros feel about ” bomb bomb bomb, bomb bomb Iran. . . “

  14. Pat McGroyne

    “…I discovered.” Translation: “…I cribbed without attribution from Zero Hedge.”

  15. Ian Welsh

    Since there was a huge blockquote right after “discovered”, I obviously didn’t present it as mine. Nor did I get it from Zerohedge (though they did reproduce the article), but from, which is where the piece was originally from.

    However, I did forget to put in the link. My bad. (I noticed only now, as the previous comment was held for moderation.)

  16. Tom


    A strike package was in the air when Trump called them off.

    Since Iran claimed to have the black box of the Drone, I think Trump realized he couldn’t claim the drone was in International Airspace as the Iranians could produce the black box and prove it wandered into their territory.

    But its time for Trump to fire Bolton and Pompeo, and ditch Pence from his 2020 ticket.

  17. ponderer

    Moon of Alabama makes a pretty good case that it was Iran or they were involved. They are backed into a corner and have plausible deniability so why not? Whether its retaliation doesn’t matter, its the game of states ie. survival. If some country blockaded the US we would do the same. Economic war is war and has been since time immortal. Starving is what people do when they realize they are in a war too late. It’s unfortunate that the public see’s some difference due to propaganda by our media. I guess it lets us think of ourselves as peacekeepers.

  18. The U.S. is “a foundation built on sand”.
    I hate caprice myself, and get chronically disoriented by all the “constant changes” in our world lately.
    “Caprice” denotes (and is a milestone of) unreliability.
    This phenomenon is just as intranational within the U.S. as it is international throughout the world. Its own citizens have “a lot to put up with” from their own country as well.

  19. “‘Caprice’ denotes (and EPITOMIZES) unreliability …”

  20. NoPolitician

    > The US cannot be trusted. Every few years, it changes. You can’t make a deal and be sure it will be honored for any length of time, let alone 10, 20 or 50 years

    Isn’t this essentially a backhanded criticism of democracy?


    Isn’t this essentially a backhanded criticism of democracy?

    We’ll never know since there are no democracies.

    It is a feature of a factionalized oligarchy and America is precisely that.

  22. bruce wilder

    The varied reactions in U.S. politics to Trump’s story about cancelling an air strike retaliation for the Iranians shooting down the American drone are certainly revealing of the “real” positions of many actors.

    The Democrats who attack Trump no matter what he does or says, while longing for the expertise of Hillary “Libyan slave markets” Clinton are predictably delusional, as the Democrats are cowardly who trot out “process” criticisms along the lines of “war without consulting Congress would be wrong” instead of “this war is wrong.”

    Interesting to me for their commentary on the narrative swamp are those who question the accuracy of the narratives being “pushed” supposedly by the White House. Trump as is his wont has claimed contradictory things about his own supremely heroic role. But this narrative confusion is nothing new — remember the Obama management of the story of Osama Bin Laden’s assassination.

    I cannot even track the reaction on the Right, where they cannot understand being denied violence and blood.

    Nowhere do l see much rational sense or prudence expressed.

    (A modest rise in oil prices, i read today, may be good for the U.S. economy, delaying the impending recession. Hmmm.)

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