Mustached Man Bad

Last Friday, the news broke that Donald Trump had finally gotten around to ordering retaliatory strikes against Iran, but when US planes were ten minutes out, he suddenly changed his mind and called it off.

This set the Internet into a frenzy, with most people getting the Iran story exactly backward because they were viewing it through the distorting lens of partisan domestic politics. In this case, oddly, the partisanship is not about Donald Trump. Rather, it’s driven by the demonization of National Security Advisor John Bolton, both by the left and by the new nationalist right.

The real story of Iran’s recent military escalation in the Persian Gulf is that it is Iran’s escalation. They are the ones who planned and carried out a campaign of strikes against shipping in the Strait of Hormuz, and they’re the ones who decided to take potshots at our drones. That’s what all the available evidence shows. The screams of “false flag” are nothing more than reflexive denials by people who don’t want to admit Iran’s aggression and who think they have a sophisticated knowledge of intelligence analysis because they watched a couple episodes of Burn Notice.

The Iranian regime’s motive is obvious. They have been badly hurt by US-led economic sanctions, and they followed up the recent tanker attacks by demanding the loosening of those sanctions. This is an attempt to blackmail the world—the recently targeted tankers were from Norway and Japan—by threatening the commerce in oil that moves through the Gulf.

More broadly, the Iranian regime is run by religious fanatics who believe in promoting their zealotry through force and violence. This is the essence of both Iran’s domestic policy and its foreign policy, which for decades has consisted of setting as much of the world on fire as it can reach.

So clearly, the cause of the recent tensions, and the real villain in all of this, is…John Bolton?

Read the rest at The Bulwark.

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