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Ascertaining motives in the Persian Gulf

By Max Atkinson - posted Wednesday, 3 July 2019

The recent downing by Iran of a US drone in the Persian Gulf, together with bomb attacks on tankers nearby, has once again put the world on the brink of war.

The Drone is unlike any other. Described by David Axe, writing in the Daily Beast on June 2o, as a $200 milli0n plus prototype spy plane the size of a Boeing 737, it can fly at 65,000 feet for up to 30 hours. Axe says the Navy had only four, now has three, but plans to buy another 70.

The US claims it was flying over international waters, but has no convincing evidence. Iran claims it was over Iranian waters and offers what it claims are time-event co-ordinates as well as photos of debris said to be from the drone's outer casing.


There is also video of an Iran patrol boat removing an unexploded mine from the hull of a burning tanker (as if investigating a surprise attack) and claims by Youtaka Kutada, president of the tanker shipping firm, that evidence from the captain and crew confirm it was hit by aerial bombs. The video shows the mine attached to the hull above the waterline, clearly visible but perhaps not so likely to sink the ship unless heeled over, or in heavy seas.

Be that as it may, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres responded quickly, calling for an independent inquiry and appealing to all sides to ease tensions. But Trump was also quick off the mark - he ordered a strike on three Iran sites which, according to the Washington Post and NY Times, was called off when the bombers were on their way.

Trump says he ordered the attack before he knew it would likely kill many innocent people. It was, he explained, only after he asked for and was given an estimate of 150 casualties that he called it off. It would, he added, be a 'disproportionate' response, since there were no US casualties. He later said he would use a "great and overwhelming force" if Iran attacked "anything American", and that some areas would face "obliteration".

Because the question of who first violated international law is crucial but unclear, many journalists have kept the issue alive by writing about motives, most finding fault with Iran for its aggression, including acts of violence by proxy groups seeking to destabilise the region. They also highlight Iran's long history of defiance of US sanctions and embargoes.

Much of the criticism highlights a recent warning by Iran that it will no longer abide by a treaty it signed with China, Russia, the US and European nations to halt further enrichment of uranium. It is supervised by on-site International Atomic Energy (IAEA) experts under a program which continues to this day.



It reveals an irony George Orwell, always fascinated by the hidden power of language, would appreciate, that many critics are outraged by Iran's 'violation' of the nuclear treaty while at the same time accepting Donald Trump's wholesale abandonment of it as a mere 'withdrawal.'

Iran is struggling to avoid an economic meltdown whose consequences in shortage of food, medicine and a viable trading and banking system may see a breakdown of law and order, with rioting in the streets and all the violence and chaos of another forced regime change.

In such circumstances the search for motives one must also include nations whose leaders may gain from a short, decisive war with Iran. The most obvious are the US, Saudi Arabia, the United Emirates and Israel.

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About the Author

Max Atkinson is a former senior lecturer of the Law School, University of Tasmania, with Interests in legal and moral philosophy, especially issues to do with rights, values, justice and punishment. He is an occasional contributor to the Tasmanian Times.

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