Will this convince Bernie Sanders? Naah, but at least some in the media have taken notice of the Pentagon’s evidence of Iranian attacks on oil shipping in the Gulf of Oman. Following up on initial video evidence of Iranian sailors trying to retrieve evidence from the two oil tankers damaged near the Strait of Hormuz, experts have produced physical evidence that has a “striking resemblance” to weapons about which Iran has openly bragged in the past:
The limpet mines used to attack a Japanese-owned oil tanker near the Strait of Hormuz last week bore “a striking resemblance” to similar mines displayed by Iran, a U.S. Navy explosives expert said Wednesday, stopping short of directly blaming Tehran for the assault. The comments by Cmdr. Sean Kido came as the Navy showed reporters pieces of debris and a magnet they said Iran’s Revolutionary Guard left behind when they spirited away an unexploded limpet mine after the June 13 attack in the Gulf of Oman.
Kido showed the journalists, including CBS News correspondent Charlie D’Agata, fragments from one of the exploded weapons the U.S. says were used in the attack, in addition to the magnet left affixed to the Japanese ship. …
[T]he Navy showed a picture previously shared among weapons experts of a limpet mine on display in Iran, which they said resembled the one they suspected was used on the ship. That picture showed a conical mine, some 90 pounds in weight, on display with a sign next to it identifying it as being produced by a research company affiliated with the Revolutionary Guard.
“The limpet mine that was used does bear a striking resemblance to that which has been publicly displayed in Iranian military parades,” Kido said. “There are distinguishing features.”
Memo to IRGC: Maybe don’t use weapons from the Death to America catalogue next time.
As for the initial reports that the damage was caused by “flying objects,” Kido says the damage to the ships doesn’t substantiate that scenario. The placement of the explosions, near the water line but enough about it to keep the ships from sinking. points to the use of mines placed deliberately to send a message:
The mines were placed above the vessel’s water line. One exploded, punching through the double-hulled ship and sparking a brief fire. The placement of the mines on the vessel makes it “not appear that the intention was to sink the vessel,” Kido said.
“The damage we observed is consistent with a limpet mine attack; it is not consistent with an external flying object hitting the ship,” Kido said.
Authorities also recovered a handprint and fingerprints, he said. “We recovered biometric information … which can be used to build a criminal case to hold the individuals responsible accountable.” He did not offer more details.
That explanation cuts both ways in terms of conspiracy theories. If the US conducted this as a false-flag operation, they would have taken care not to sink the vessels. By the same token, Iran might have decided that (a) an attack was good enough to shake up the sanctions alliance without sinking the ships, and (b) careful placement would make it look like a US false-flag operation. I know which way I’d bet on that choice, and I’m pretty sure which way Bernie Sanders would bet, too.
One way to settle it would be to run the fingerprints through the Pentagon to see if it matches any US personnel. The fact that they were left and then discovered by the US tells me that the Pentagon’s not concerned about matches.
Tom Cotton has seen enough. He wants Donald Trump to launch a retaliatory strike on Iran:
Tom Cotton is the most outspoken champion for bombing Iran in a Senate filled with Republican hawks. And he’s got President Donald Trump’s ear on it, too. …
[I]n an interview in his Capitol office on Tuesday, he offered a hard-line case for the president to take action now and not wait, as some of his GOP colleagues are advocating.
“There are more than ample targets that can deter Iran from this kind of malicious behavior whether it’s naval bases or munition storage or refining capabilities,” Cotton said.
His goal? “To inflict enough pain on Tehran that they realize that we’re not going to tolerate these kind of attacks on the high seas.”
Trump sounded very skeptical of this idea, however, when Time Magazine asked about it. That might be because of who has Trump’s other ear on Iran:
In the upper echelons of the Trump administration, hawkish voices on Iran predominate—most notably Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Adviser John Bolton. But as tensions between the U.S. and Iran have escalated over the last few weeks, there’s been another, far different voice in the president’s ear: that of Fox News host Tucker Carlson.
A source familiar with the conversations told The Daily Beast that, in recent weeks, the Fox News host has privately advised Trump against taking military action against Iran. And a senior administration official said that during the president’s recent conversations with the Fox primetime host, Carlson has bashed the more “hawkish members” of his administration.
While some Fox News hosts have argued that a conflict with Iran would be justified, Carlson has consistently criticized U.S. military intervention abroad, particularly in the Middle East. In recent weeks, he has questioned whether war with Iran would be “in anyone’s interest.” Last month, he publicly chided Bolton, saying he was intentionally escalating tensions, and that a potential conflict would “be like Christmas, Thanksgiving, his birthday wrapped into one.”
Trump’s not likely to disagree with Carlson anyway, given his own consistent non-interventionist instincts. He’ll strike when he must, and he might have to do so at some point, but Trump won’t want it to be over oil. He’ll need more unanimity on any pre-emptive or retaliatory strike on Iran, and today’s exhibition looks like just the first step along that path.