Through the course of 2019, the United States has been to the brink and back with Iran more than once. First, several oil tankers came under attack. Next, a (rather expensive) U.S. drone was shot down by the Iranians in late June. Then came the attacks against the Saudi oil facilities in September. Washington’s myriad hawks are hopping mad that the Pentagon has not been permitted to teach Tehran a devastating lesson in response to its mischief. American credibility the world over, they contend, has been jeopardized.
Doves and non-interventionists, by contrast, are celebrating the U.S. president’s evident reluctance to start yet another war in the Middle East. They are further buoyed by the partial pullout from Syria and note that deep tensions with Iran date from the exit from the nuclear accord. Poor John Bolton was sent packing after all these machinations, but may yet be plotting his ultimate political revenge much to the delight of the salivating press corps. In any case, the recent killing of Abu al-Baghadadi seems like a perfect opportunity for the United States to declare “victory.”
In the midst of all these rather surprising events in the Persian Gulf, not to mention that usual swirl of political intrigue in Washington DC, American strategists (with only a few exceptions) may have missed a rather important inflection point for the future of world order. During the late June 2019 crisis in the Persian Gulf, the American president made a startlingly candid observation (even by his standards): “China gets 91 percent of its oil from the Straight (sic), Japan 62 percent, and many other countries likewise. So why are we protecting the shipping lanes for other countries (many years) for zero compensation. All of these countries should be protecting their own ships …”