Andrew Schoerke: The escalating confrontation with Iran

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The confrontation between the United Sates and Iran is escalating daily. It began on May 8, 2018 when President Trump withdrew the U.S. from the Nuclear Arms Agreement between Iran, the U.S., Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China, and began imposing sanctions on Iran. His stated purpose was to prevent any nuclear arms development by Iran and to stop acts of terrorism by Iran's client militias in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen.

On November 5, 2018, President Trump imposed increasingly punitive sanctions including a threat to penalize buyers of Iranian oil and blacklisting Iran banks and government officials. In an attempt to reduce tensions President Trump, on June 2, offered to renegotiate the agreement but Iran's President Rouhani dismissed the offer.

To force the U.S. to lift the sanctions, Iran began aggressive actions cited below together with the sources:

On May 9, a rocket landed near the U.S. embassy in Baghdad and in mid-June rockets hit a U.S army base in Iraq (Navy Times, June 21).

On June 6, a U.S. surveillance drone was shot down over Yemen by Houthi rebels using a SA-6 Russian missile provided by Iran (Navy Times, June 21).

On June 13, an Iranian SA-7 missile failed to shoot down an American surveillance drone (Navy Times, June 21).

On May 13, two tankers were damaged in attacks off the coast of the United Arab Emirates (New York Times, May 13).

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On June 13, two tankers were hit by suspected torpedos in the Gulf of Oman (NYT 6/13) but were later determined to be Iranian limpet mines (U.S. Navy report, June 19).

On June 20, A U.S. RQ-4A surveillance drone was shot down by an Iranian missile near the Strait of Hormuz (New York Times, June 20).

On July 1, Iran announced it would breach the uranium stockpile weight limits set by the 2015 Agreement (The Washington Post, July 1).

On July 9, Iran announced it would breach the uranium enrichment limits set by the 2015 Agreement (New York Times, July 9).

In response to these incidents the U.S. has begun strengthening its military forces in the region including the deployment of the Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group, deploying four B-52 bombers and a squadron of F-22 Raptor stealth fighters, deploying a battery of Patriot surface-to-air missiles, and deploying an additional 1,500 troops to serve the missile defense systems and surveillance drones (Reuters, May 24). On April 12, 2019 he declared the Iranian Revolutionary Guard to be a "Foreign Terrorist Group." The most serious response was President Trump's order to attack the Iranian surface-to-air missile site responsible for the RQ-4 surveillance drone shoot-down. Fortunately he cancelled the order just minutes before the attack was to begin.

The New York Times reported on June 23 that to deter Iran's aggressive actions the White House Is pressing for military options as well as cyberattacks on Iran. President Trump is also pressuring allies to join with the U.S. in creating a fleet of war ships to monitor or escort oil tankers transiting the Strait of Hormuz.

If the escalation with Iran increases, President Trump may elect to invoke the Authorization to Use Military Force (AUMF) Act passed by Congress following the 9/11 attack by al-Qaida. His justification would be, as previous presidents have done, to use it in the U.S. "Global War On Terror." To prevent yet another Mideast war Congress must repeal the AUMF even though Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has blocked all previous attempts.

Andrew Schoerke is a retired naval officer. He lives in Shaftsbury.


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