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Transcript: “U.S-Iran -Where Do We Go From Here?” – War or Negotiation? with Ibrahim Kazerooni and Rob Prince. KGNU – Hemispheres, Middle East Dialogues. June 25, 2019 @ 6 pm Mountain Time – Part One

June 28, 2019

Transcript – “U.S-Iran -Where Do We Go From Here?” – War or Negotiation? with Ibrahim Kazerooni and Rob Prince. KGNU – Hemispheres, Middle East Dialogues. June 25, 2019 @ 6 pm Mountain Time – Part One

… I agree with the sentiment that Trump’s “stepping back” from responding to the drone downing with a U.S. military response had nothing to do with the President’s claim that he wanted to save 150 Iranian lives.

Instead, other factors were at play. The fact that the Iranians were able to shoot down such a sophisticated drone proved a couple of things to the United States.

1. Particularly, adding in a few other factors, it becomes clear that Iran is not prepared to play Washington’s game. Iran has repeatedly said in the past that its air space is “a red line” not to be crossed.

2. The Iranians are prepared to confront the U.S.,to respond to any further Washington provocation militarily and they have the sophistication to do and to challenge the United States in the region

– Ibrahim Kazerooni –

Jim Nelson: As many of our listeners are aware, the tensions between the United States and Iran have reached something close to the boiling point. A military confrontation remains highly possible. Much of the confrontation is a result of the Trump Administration pulling out of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action – JCPOA- (Iran Nuclear Deal). The Trump Administration gave a number of reasons to leave the JCPOA, childish claims on the whole. Trump referred to it as “the worst deal ever,” “a terrible deal.” When Barack Obama first helped craft the agreement, in an effort to undercut his achievement, the Republicans immediately began to undermine its legitimacy by raising the issue of Iran’s long-range ballistic missiles – which are not in any way a part of the agreement. They also claimed – again falsely – that Iran was secretly enriching uranium; the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) denies that Iran was “cheating” on enrichment.

What we have here is a precarious situation, a dangerous situation that threatens to blow up into a regional conflict with global consequences – a deadly game of chicken, created and accelerated by National Security Adviser, John Bolton, and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo with Donal Trump going along for the ride; he seems to be enjoying it. But Trump’s joy ride could end in a crash with reality.

Rob Prince, what do you think?

Rob Prince: Thanks for the introduction Jim, I think it’s quite apt. We’re facing what is actually a contrived crisis, contrived in Washington DC, but extremely dangerous all the same. The way we’re going to begin tonight is to put forth a way out of this situation.

The main argument we’re going to build towards over the course of tonight’s program is that to turn around the current situation – the danger of a U.S. attack on Iran, which would provoke an Iranian military response that could ignite a regional war – and could go beyond that, the question is how do we pull back from the brink – that is our main concern at this moment.

To do so both the Trump Administration and the Islamic Republic of Iran should enter into immediate negotiations without pre-conditions. We’re far from that this evening as the verbal war continues, and if anything it has these past days intensifies.

– But to turn the situation around both sides have to be ready and willing to make compromises of a substantial nature. In the US case, something along the lines of ending its sanctions against the Islamic Republic and returning to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action

– On the Iranian side – in exchange for a U.S. commitment not to engage in engage in efforts to overthrow the current government of Iran – either through military means or through its “maximum pressure” policy – that the Iranian government for its part, has to be be willing to negotiate something substantial, more than likely being willing to open negotiations about limiting its long range ballistic missiles.

Needless to say “we” – and by “we” I don’t just mean Iran, the US, or other major players in the Middle East, the Saudis, Israel, but I am referring to the world as a whole. It just got barely escaped a conflagration last week (June 20, 2019) that could have had dire consequences and as the expression goes “we’re not out of the woods yet” – far from it.

Just to briefly recap – As many KGNU listeners are well aware, last Thursday – on June 20, 2019 – the Iranian military shot down what is referred to as an RQ – 4A intelligence-gathering surveillance drone; it is manufactured by Northrop-Grumman. It was flying over a narrow passage in the Strait of Hormuz, within Iranian air space when brought down by an Iranian land-to-air missile. Betweem 20-30% of the world’s oil – some 18 million barrels a day – passes through the Strait of Hormuz, much of it heading east to Japan, Korea, China and points east.

The price of oil temporarily spiked; it’s been up close to 10% this week.

There were many press reports that the drone, referred to as “a surveillance monster” in one article, cost as much as $220 million to manufacture and equip. Different figures have appeared in the media as to its costs, but whatever, it is quite expensive.

Claiming that the drone was somewhat innocently in “international waters” – as one sarcastic source put it “on its way to church” when it was shot down, blown to bits by an Iranian missile, in response, the Trump Administration prepared a major military strike against Iran.

According to Vox:

“The United States (immediately)launched cyberattacks on Iran Thursday, targeting computer systems that control the nation’s rocket and missile launchers. A physical attack was planned for the same day, following Iran’s destruction of an unmanned US drone; President Donald Trump called off that strike, however.”

Trump claimed quite facetiously and almost cynically, that in so doing he was saving the lives of 150 Iranians. Needless to say had the attack occurred, many, many more people would have been killed or wounded.

By Monday – yesterday that is – the Trump Administration had responded with a mixed message – both the carrot and the stick in the same sentence – and far more stick than carrot I might add. On the one hand, Trump expressed his willingness to negotiate with Iran without preconditions, at the same time that his administration, threatening war and heaping on yet more sanctions against the Islamic Republic, announced the United States would send more U.S. troops to the Middle East – far from “confidence building measures.”

In retaliation for downing the drone, the Trump Administration had announced yet more and tighter sanctions against Iran. While not giving the details Donald Trump “said he signed an executive order imposing “hard hitting” sanctions on Iran that will deny Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, his office “and many others” access to financial instruments” – Among the newly penalized – the assets of Iran’s foreign minister – and University of Denver Korbel School of International Studies phd graduate – Javad Zarif, one of the key architects of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (the Iran Nuclear Deal).

According to the NY Times, Iran responded immediately to the new round of sanctions “with mockery.” As Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi noted:

“Are there really any sanctions that the U.S. hasn’t imposed against our country and people in the past 40 years?” …“And what did it achieve?”

This morning – again, as reported in today’s NY Times on-line by David Kilpatrick – Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani referred to the White House as “mentally retarded” vowing that Teheran would not be intimidated by American threats and aggression.

2.

Ibrahim… despite the fact that Donald Trump did in fact pull back from a military strike against Iran last Friday almost immediately thereafter tensions ratcheted up to nearly shrill proportions the next day, continuing until now.

I just listened to an in-depth interview with U.S. Senator Lindsay Graham, we can come back to them later in the program

The way that media is shaping the message, both the scenario of what happened last week packaging the narrative of these recent events, it seems that they are – as Noam Chomsky famously put it – essentially manufacturing public consent for some future U.S. attack against Iran.

Ibrahim, what do you think?

Ibrahim Kazerooni: Rob, if you study the Western media you would certainly conclude that the Iranians are to blame for everything. The way that they are presented is not much different from how Iraq was described in 2002-3 at a time when the media was “engineering consent” for war. Saddam was “a monster,” Iraq was violating international law. Unfortunately what we are seeing is “deja vu all over again.”

We see this in the way the media is trying to whip up the drumbeat for war. But concerning the two recent events – the attack on the two oil tankers and then the shooting down of the U.S. drone – in both cases the media in this country all claim that it was the Iranian fault.

First of all, someone attacked two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman last week (June 13, 2019). The Trump Administration wants the world to believe that Iran is the culprit. Without even waiting for any kind of documentation, (U.S. Secretary of State) Pompeo and (U.S. National Security Adviser) John Bolton went ahead and not only declared Iran was behind the attacks. This was how the media presented the crisis.

Yet there is no evidence that Iran was behind the attack on the Norwegian or Japanese ship. Not only was there no evidence involved but such an attack, just prior to the Japanese prime minister’s visit to Teheran would have been totally distasteful. To make the matter worse, contrary to Washington and Trump’s statement, the owner of the Japanese tanker hit in the (Persian) gulf has categorically rejected the United States’ claim that the vessel was damaged by an (Iranian) mine, asserting instead that it was a “flying object” that struck the ship. In response to that, the Americans posted some grainy photos of a small ship with six, seven or ten individuals that the Americans claim were removing the mine from the surface of the ship.

This was one issue.

Then on June 19, an Iranian surface-to-air missile shot down an unmanned surveillance drone. Once again, immediately, the White House claimed that the drone was at least twenty miles from Iran, and thus outside of Iranian waters, as defined by the International Convention on Civil Aviation, an agreement that gives Iran the right to control all traffic within twelve nautical miles of its coastline.

Again, the American claim was contradicted, this time by Iran. Their GPS coordination that they shared clearly indicated that, contrary to the American claim, that the drone was not twenty miles offshore but was within eight miles from Iran’s shores which means it was some four miles within Iranian territorial waters as understood by the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.

The Iranians shared their entire documentation of this event with the United Nations. It verified that not only had the drone drifted into Iranian territorial waters but that also, it appears that there was another U.S. plane, a P-8 naval surveillance plane, which is primarily used by the U.S. Navy primarily for spying and intelligence gathering. It has a crew of 35 that were working on it at the time.

In the evidence given to the U.N., the Iranians presented the images of both planes. They said that they could have shot down the second one; instead we shot down the one that was unmanned. Trump had to – graciously at least – credit the Iranians, and thank them for not shooting the second one down because then the whole affair would have been escalated that much more because then there would have been loss of (American) life.

This reminds me, Rob, of a past event.

I don’t know how much our listeners remember, 1983, the early part of the Reagan Administration during the Soviet era. The Korean airline, Korean Flight 007 that was shot down by the Soviet Union. It transpired that this Koren airline was set up by the Americans to be shot down so the ensuing loss of life could be used as a justification to shame the Soviet Union as a barbaric regime.

The scenario of the recent shooting down of the RQ – 4A drone shares certain similarities to the Korean 007. In this more recent case, the United States sent the P-8 to the same area where the RQ – 4A was about to enter. Immediately thereafter, the drone is sent, hoping that the drone would quickly leave the area very quickly and the unsophisticated Iranian surface-to-air missile would shoot down the P-8.

Rob Prince: Ibrahim, the comparison between the two incidents is that in the case of the Korean 007 incident, the second plane involved was a U-2 spy plane which penetrated Soviet air space. Unable to distinguish the U-2 from the civilian Korean airliner, the Soviets shot down the latter rather than the former.

Ibrahim Kazerooni: The U-2 actually moved into the Soviet Union’s air space at the time. As the Korean 007 somehow drifted into the same spot that the U-2 had occupied. The U-2 moved out of Soviet air space, out of sight. What happened next – Korean 007 was shot down.

Nor do we need to back that far in time.

The Israelis did something similar in Syria with a Russian plane. They (the Israelis) hid behind a Russian plane – so-called “shadowing” so that the Syrians were only able to detect the Israeli plane, not realizing that at the moment the Israeli plane had moved out and away while the Russian plane was moving in. So the Russian plane was shot down.

The Iranians have made it clear that both the P-8 and the RQ – 4A intelligence-gathering surveillance drone were well within Iranian air space and that by a distance of four miles, a significant distance – not simply a few meters. So they shot down the U.S. drone. The Iranians issued a report that noted, the drone had been warned several times within a few minutes. At 3:55 am the first warning was issued. The drone did not respond.

What is so special about this drone? It’s not only the size, the magnitude of it, nor the altitude that it can reach, but there is another point. The moment that any contact is made with such a vehicle – meaning that the surface-to-air missile’s radar locks in on the drone, establishing contact, this information is immediately passed down to the American base in Qatar or the United Arab Emirates. But the U.S. did not respond to that warning.

At 4:00 am, that is five minutes after the plane drifted into Iranian air space, again a second warning went out. At 4:05 a third warning was issued. Once three warnings had been given without any American response as the drone continues to penetrate Iranian territory, it was shot down.

That said, I agree with the sentiment that Trump’s “stepping back” from a U.S. military strike in response has nothing to do with the President’s claim that he wanted to save 150 Iranian lives.

Instead, other factors were at play. The fact that the Iranians were able to shoot down such a sophisticated drone proved a couple of things to the United States.

1. Particularly, adding in a few other factors, it becomes clear that Iran is not prepared to play Washington’s game. Iran has repeatedly said in the past that its air space is “a red line” not to be crossed.

2. The Iranians are prepared to confront the U.S.,to respond to any further Washington provocation militarily and they have the sophistication to do and to challenge the United States in the region

 

To be continued…

5 Comments leave one →
  1. William Conklin permalink
    June 28, 2019 11:56 am

    It appears to me that if the United States attacks Iran, that China and Russia will stand behind Iran and cause the United States to back down. Iranian hegemony in the Middle East will be increased. China and Russia together have a huge population and a gigantic land mass with massive resources. Russia beat Germany in World War II when it was just recovering from its loss in World War I and its revolution. Russia cannot be underestimated. Nato should not be messing with the Northern Bear. The United States is a dying empire, like a Cyclops going down the snout of a volcano. Very scary time if the United States, with its inept leadership, decides to push the envelope.

    • June 28, 2019 12:04 pm

      That the U.S. is “a dying empire” is, from where I am sitting, accurate. …but given this, there is the concern for what is referred to as “the wounded beast syndrome.” In a general sense, yes, China and Russia stand with Iran and are opposed to the U.S. threats but I doubt that they want to engage the U.S. militarily over Iran,…their support for Iran will be political, economic – and that is something, but militarily I doubt they would do much, if anything…nor should they, as it would provoke WW3. Still, the fact that Iran is not completely isolated, that it has the support of Russia and China, helps Teheran maneuver through these dangerous times… and complicates U.S. plans.

      • William Conklin permalink
        June 28, 2019 2:37 pm

        That is a good analysis Rob and I hope you are right but I keep thinking about World War I, all that took was a murder in a little-known country. Have we advanced enough to avoid stumbling into a repeat performance?

Trackbacks

  1. Transcript – “U.S-Iran -Where Do We Go From Here?” – War or Negotiation? with Ibrahim Kazerooni and Rob Prince. KGNU – Hemispheres, Middle East Dialogues. June 25, 2019 @ 6 pm Mountain Time – Part Two | View from the Left Bank: Rob Pri
  2. Transcript – “U.S-Iran -Where Do We Go From Here?” – War or Negotiation? with Ibrahim Kazerooni and Rob Prince. KGNU – Hemispheres, Middle East Dialogues. June 25, 2019 @ 6 pm Mountain Time – Part Three | View from the Left Bank: Rob P

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