In response to the series of Iranian attacks in the Persian Gulf, former Obama-administration members joined others in outlandish speculation about the identity of the perpetrators, while accusing the Trump administration of seeking a casus belli against the Islamic Republic. Noah Rothman writes:
In the American Conservative, Gareth Porter wrote that the administration’s efforts to blame Iran [on the May 12 attacks on four ships] was “an intelligence deception comparable to the fraudulent pretense for war in Iraq.” . . . Senator Bernie Sanders likened the attack to the Gulf of Tonkin incident and insisted that the primary sources of tension in the region were “provocations on the part of the United States against Iran.”
One month later, American officials again blamed Iran for a bold daylight assault on two more tankers in the Gulf of Oman, releasing a detailed timeline of events and video evidence in support of the charge. . . . Barack Obama’s former deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes contended that Donald Trump’s lack of credibility ensures that the U.S. is “isolated in trying to pin the blame on the Iranians,” which is untrue. “What is their motivation to be provocative with the Iranians?” Speaker Nancy Pelosi pointedly asked on Sunday. “Why of all the countries in the world did the president of the United States choose as his first country to visit Saudi Arabia?” She added, “Follow the money.”
Like most conspiracy theories, the notion that President Trump is spoiling for war in the Middle East is wholly resistant to contradictory evidence. . . . Despite Iran’s attacks, the president and his cabinet officials have continued to set conditions for direct diplomatic engagement with Iran. . . .
The pattern of escalation in the Persian Gulf suggests that Iran is not done testing America’s lack of resolve. Absent the U.S.’s imposing unendurable costs on Iran’s bellicose behavior, the next attack could be one that Washington simply cannot afford to ignore.