Trump’s latest Iran war threat ignites firestorm of opposition
Iranians rescued the sailors and put out the fire, giving the lie to the claim that they had attacked the ships. | AP

WASHINGTON – From presidential hopefuls to peace groups to 86,125 people signing an anti-war petition – so far – the latest Iran war threat concocted by President Trump has ignited a firestorm of criticism and opposition.

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, told The Washington Post that she had hoped Trump “would kind of not be grabbed up in the claws of the neocon war hawks, of the likes of” Trump National Security Adviser “John Bolton – which, unfortunately, it appears he has.” Even before taking the job with Trump, Bolton loudly and harshly advocated war on Iran, regime change and a victory celebration at the U.S. Embassy in Tehran.

Trump stepped up his march toward war yesterday with claims by his Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, that Iran was behind the explosions on two Japanese tankers in the Strait of Hormuz. A third of the world’s oil that is shipped over water goes through that passage. Pompeo produced no proof that appeared credible. Pictures released by the Pentagon, in fact, seemed to show that some of the government assertions were outright falsehoods.

Independent Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, another of the 24 or so Democratic candidates for president, promised to lead a crusade, if need be, against the latest push for war. “I make no apologies for, as a young man, opposing the war in Vietnam and as a congressman, for doing everything I could to prevent the war in Iraq,” he declared at a activists conference in San Francisco just days before this latest Trump administration provocation. He connected the fight against the attacks on Iran to the battle against the already dangerous U.S. support for Saudi Arabia’s war on the people of Yemen which has resulted in hundreds of thousands of deaths and mass starvation in the country.

“I am proud right now to have led the effort to get the U.S. out of an unauthorized, unconstitutional war in Yemen,” said Sanders.

Although the senator did not say so, the war in Yemen is, like the provocations in the Strait of Hormuz, part of the administration’s plan for regime change in Iran. The sending of arms to the Saudis for use in Yemen puts the Saudis in an even stronger position against Iran by arming them even more than they have been armed thus far.

Iranians, both in Teheran and at the United Nations, vehemently denied they were behind the attacks on the Japanese vessels. Indeed, video released by the Pentagon of the burning vessels showed an Iranian naval vessel spraying tons of water from fire hoses on one of them. Another Iranian naval vessel rescued the tanker’s crew. All of this was going on against the backdrop of a visit to Tehran by Japan’s Prime Minister, who said he was seeking to reduce tensions in the region. He avoided saying anything negative about the United States, including the fact that it is the U.S. that has been banging the war drums in the region.

In its struggle to survive crushing U.S. sanctions Iran needs all the friends it can get. This renders absurd the U.S. claims that it would attack Japanese ships while that country’s prime minister is visiting in Tehran.

Iran’s UN ambassador, at a special U.S.-demanded Security Council session on the tankers, called Pompeo’s screed part of the Trump administration’s “Iranophobic campaign.”

“The U.S. economic war and terrorism against the Iranian people as well as its massive military presence in the region have been and continue to be the main sources of insecurity and instability in the wider Persian Gulf region and the most significant threat to its peace and security,” Iran added in a statement yesterday.

One of the unsubstantiated claims made by the U.S. is that Iran had attached limpet mines to at least one of the two tankers.

Yutaka Katada, CEO of the Japanese firm that owns the tanker named Kokua Courageous, doubts the Trump-Bolton-Pompeo stories. His sailors, he said, told him they saw “flying objects” before the first of two incidents that damaged the ship.

Significant also is the fact that the Iranians rushed to rescue the entire crew of 21 sailors who had to abandon the ship.

Contrary to reports by the sailors, Pompeo said torpedoes hit the ship, again without providing any evidence.

Katada told CBS News that the torpedo story too was “false,” because the damage was above the ship’s waterline, and mines or torpedoes would hit the tanker below it.

All this saber-rattling has led 62 organizations to write Congress – even before the tanker incidents – urging lawmakers to stop Trump’s march towards war with Iran.  Their letter joins the online anti-war petition.

Signers included the Friends Committee for National Legislation, Credo, CodePink, Indivisible, two Jewish peace groups, Americans for Peace Now, seven national church groups, Veterans for Peace, Win Without War, United for Peace and Justice, and VoteVets, a noted pro-worker veterans group.

“Congress cannot be complicit as the playbook for the 2003 invasion of Iraq is repeated before our eyes,” their letter said.

“The administration has increasingly politicized intelligence on Iran’s nuclear program, and falsely asserts ties between Iran and al-Qaeda,” it adds. Though the letter did not say so, Trump started the rush to war by pulling the U.S.  out of the prior multinational agreement with the Iranians to de-nuclearize, and imposed an economic embargo on Iran, too.

Yutaka Katada, president of Kokuka Sangyo Co., the Japanese company operating one of two oil tankers attacked. He disputed Pompeo’s claim that the tanker was hit by a torpedo, saying the ship was hit by a flying object. | Jae C. Hong / AP

“Worryingly, the administration does not perceive it is constrained by the lack of congressional authorization for war with Iran and has even suggested that the 2001 authorization to use military force could be twisted to green light strikes against Iran,” the groups warned.

“As the drumbeat for war grows louder, Congress must fulfill its constitutional duty and enact further constraints to unequivocally prevent the administration from launching an unauthorized war.”

Credo’s on-line anti-war petition makes the same points, especially about Bolton and Trump pushing the U.S. into war.  “Stop Bolton’s war in Iran. Pass S1039 and HR2354, the Prevention of Unconstitutional War with Iran Act of 2019,” it reads.

“A crisis in the Middle East is escalating extremely quickly. For the past few weeks, Trump’s National Security Adviser John Bolton has frantically tried to make war with Iran a foregone conclusion.

“A war with Iran would be devastating – likely on a larger scale than even the war in Iraq that Bolton helped engineer 15 years ago. We must stop him from re-using his Iraq playbook to drag us into yet another catastrophic war in the region.”

Like free stuff? So do we. Here at People’s World, we believe strongly in the mission of keeping the labor and democratic movements informed so they are prepared for the struggle. But we need your help. While our content is free for readers (something we are proud of) it takes money — a lot of it — to produce and cover the stories you see in our pages. Only you, our readers and supporters, can keep us going. Only you can make sure we keep the news that matters free of paywalls and advertisements. If you enjoy reading People’s World and the stories we bring you, support our work by becoming a $5 monthly sustainer today.


Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Award-winning journalist Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of the union news service Press Associates Inc. (PAI). Known for his reporting skills, sharp wit, and voluminous knowledge of history, Mark is a compassionate interviewer but tough when going after big corporations and their billionaire owners.