The United States is already losing a close ally in its rush to justify military action against Iran.
The Spanish government on May 14, 2019 announced its navy would not, as previously planned, send a guided-missile frigate to join the battle group of the U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln.
Washington in early May 2019 expedited Lincoln’s planned deployment to the Middle East after officials with the Trump administration claimed they had received intelligence indicating Iranian forces planned to attack American interests.
“The U.S. government has taken a decision outside of the framework of what had been agreed with the Spanish navy,” Spain’s acting defense minister Margarita Robles told reporters in Brussels.
In addition to speeding up Lincoln’s deployment, the Pentagon also sent a contingent of U.S. Air Force B-52s to the Middle East as part of a wider build-up of forces in the region. The bombers on May 12, 2019 flew their first “deterrence” sorties near Iran. Air Force F-15C and F-35A fighters around the same time flew their own show-of-force missions.
U.S. president Donald Trump’s national security advisor John Bolton, who has vowed to force regime change in Tehran, reportedly ordered acting defense secretary Patrick Shanahan to update plans for a possible war with Iran.
The plan “envisions sending as many as 120,000 troops to the Middle East should Iran attack American forces or accelerate work on nuclear weapons,” The New York Times reported. The planning documents “do not call for a land invasion of Iran, which would require vastly more troops, officials said.”
The size of the force involved has shocked some who have been briefed on them. The 120,000 troops would approach the size of the American force that invaded Iraq in 2003.
Deploying such a robust air, land and naval force would give Tehran more targets to strike, and potentially more reason to do so, risking entangling the United States in a drawn out conflict. It also would reverse years of retrenching by the American military in the Middle East that began with Pres. Barack Obama’s withdrawal of troops from Iraq in 2011.
The government of Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly supplied the intelligence that the Trump administration used to justify, which routinely lies about basic facts, has not supplied to the public any evidence of a heightened threat from Iran.
The administration has pointed to recent incidents that it claims were Iranian attacks on U.S. allies. Saudi and Emirati authorities claimed four oil tankers came under attack in the Persian Gulf on May 13, 2019 and all four suffered damage.
U.S. military officials blame Iran, despite a lack of evidence that all four tankers indeed were damaged -- and that any damage was the result of an attack.
A British general on May 14, 2019 insisted he had seen “no increased threat from Iranian-backed forces” in Iraq and Syria.
Many recent attacks on Saudi oil infrastructure and shipping have been blamed on Houthi fighters from Yemen. Explosives-laden Houthi drones on May 14, 2019 reportedly damaged oil pipelines on Saudi soil.
Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates both are at war with the Houthis in Yemen. There is tenuous evidence that the Houthis receive some support from Iran. But there is no evidence that recent attacks on tankers and pipelines are part of a new and coordinated campaign by Iran to damage U.S. interests.
The Trump administration for years has antagonized Iran. The administration in 2018 withdrew from the 2015 international agreement limiting Iran’s nuclear program. Iran in response pulled back from some aspects of the agreement, but with strong European support largely has continued to abide by its terms.
Many observers in the United States fear the Trump White House wants war with Iran for political benefit or as part of an ideologically-motivated scheme to “remake” the Middle East. A scheme that would amount to a repeat of the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.
“Similar to the George W. Bush administration’s justification for the war in Iraq, the Trump administration has presented the false narratives that Iran is not meeting its obligations under the nuclear deal and that it is somehow partially responsible for the rise of the Islamic State in Syria,” U.S. senators Tom Udall, a New Mexico Democrat, and Richard Durbin, an Illinois Democrat, warned in an op-ed.
“It’s true that the leaders of Iran are deeply problematic. But if this were enough to justify war, other regimes in the region would also be in the United States’ crosshairs, instead of being recipients of U.S. military aid,” Udall and Durbin wrote, referring to oil-rich Saudi Arabia.
Saudi money funds a vast network of extremist religious institutions that underpin modern Islamic terrorism. Trump has aligned himself with Saudi rulers and even exempted the country from an otherwise highly indiscriminate ban on people from many mostly-Muslim countries traveling to the United States.