After President Trump decided not to launch an air strike against Iran in response to Iran shooting down a Global Hawk surveillance drone, the big question was, "Okay, now what?"
My initial thoughts on this centered on Russia. And Russia's affirmation of its relationship with Iran saw Trump begin a pivot towards a different strategy than one of direct confrontation.
He went to North Korea after the G-20 in Osaka, meeting with DPRK Leader Kim Jong-Un to advance his relationship there.
He's mostly kept his mouth shut on Iran other than a little obvious Twitter-rattling about 'annihilation' if Iran attacks any U.S. asset.
So, it seems that Trump himself is ready to alter the trajectory of his foreign policy. The problem is, as has been pointed out repeatedly, these actions have empowered all manner of other actors to commit provocations which Trump will have to respond to at some point.
Case in point the seized oil Iranian oil tanker by British marines at Gibraltar. This is purely outrageous behavior. And the details of the seizure itself are highly suspect. Claims that the tanker was headed for a Syrian port which can't even berth a tanker of that size are a dead giveaway.
And then there's the planted story about Iran 'attack boats' trying to seize a British tanker in retaliation.
As Bernard at Moon of Alabama points out, the U.S. and the Brits can't even get their story straight as to how many boats the Iranians used in this operation. Was it three? Five?
Moreover, what was the ship doing turning off its AIS transponder as it passed through the Strait of Hormuz?
Of interest is also that the ship turned off its AIS signal, see the dotted line, during its passage through the Hormuz Strait.
CNN also noted that:
On July 10, the ship turned off its transponders for almost 24 hours, making it undetectable by radars. When it switched on its transponders at around 1pm Eastern Time, it appeared to have sailed through the Persian Gulf escorted by the HMS Montrose.
Turning of the AIS in a high traffic area and especially at night is quite dangerous. The AIS signals a ships type, speed and course and other ships use that data to plan their own course. But even without AIS the ship will still be visible on the Iranian surveillance radars that control the Hormuz Strait. A ship on the radar screen without AIS information would be suspicious.
So why would the British ship do that? Was that an attempt to draw special attention to it from the Iranian coast guard or military?
To me it seems that the empty British crude carrier, which was shadowed by a British frigate, was used as bait. There were probably Royal Marines on board waiting for an Iranian attempt to seize the ship. Iran did not fall for it.
Bernard likely has it right here. And it's ridiculous. But par for the course if you consider the lengths the U.S. and U.K. 'security' infrastructure are willing to go to provoke a war with Iran and a wider war in the Middle East.
Remember it was likely U.K., Israeli and French collaborators which shot down the Russian IL-20 ELINT plane last year. And Russian President Vladimir Putin, had to concoct a fairy tale about Israeli Jets and Syrian Air defense crews to avoid being forced to retaliate and start World War III.
The British, especially under Theresa May, have been a non-stop source of half-baked intelligence and military provocations acting as the U.S. Deep State's proxy. And one has to wonder if these pokes to Iran are just another set of poison pills Boris Johnson, presumably, will have to deal with while he settles into 10 Downing St.
Johnson will be up to his neck in preparing for confronting the EU over Brexit. These cheap theatrics by the British military and Foreign Office he used to run and his opponent for Prime Minister, Jeremy Hunt, currently does, simply won't be high on his priority list.
He won't have the energy, if he was so willing, or time to root out the people behind these decisions and clean them out. Again, that's assuming Johnson is even opposed to war with Iran in the first place.
Iran's responses to these clear amateur hour acts of aggression has been to do what Putin does, mostly ignore them. Lodge official complaints and simply let the aggressors look like the bad guys.
How many people in the U.K. are willing to fight and die in John Bolton's and Bibi Netanyahu's war on Iran? Not many.
And that's where this gets interesting. Because Iran's passivity is part of its means of striking back. The more the U.S. cries wolf over oil tanker aggression the more it highlights why the sanctions are wrong in the first place.
It's already had the desired effect of raising insurance rates over ten times since the first tankers were attacked a little over a month ago.
The first attacks at Fujairah were likely Iran. But every incident after that has been one of Iran's enemies trying to pin the attack on it.
There comes a point where the pressure from the real economy will overshadow the games played by 'intelligence' operatives and they are reined in.
The Brits are out over their skies here as a signatory to the JCPOA that is supposedly in favor of Iran staying in the deal. And yet, they are out there enforcing U.S. sanctions policy by proxy which sends the wrong message in the end.
And it gives Iran that much more diplomatic cover to violate the terms of the agreement and ensure its complete failure.
That's where Iran's leverage is and why it was right, strategically, not morally, to being enriching Uranium beyond 3.67% as stipulated in the deal.
The continued attempt to strangle Iran from every angle will fail in the end. They will remain passive to direct confrontation while upping the pressure on Trump with each kilogram of Uranium processed.
It's a dangerous game but it's the one Iran, I think, has to play. They know the U.S. is not interested in a deal that leaves Iran's sovereignty intact. And Europe is revealed as less than useless.
This is why U.S. and Iranian officials are meeting behind the scenes while entrenched pro-war interests in both the U.S. and British establishment are activating operations or making statements to counter these early steps by Trump to walk back away from the abyss of global war.
Trump wants the unachievable. He wants a new nuclear deal and not to go to war with Iran. Iran knows this and is using that as the fulcrum to beat him back at every turn. Russia and China aren't happy with Iran provoking the U.S. by violating the deal but it's likely the only thing that will bring the U.S. to the table.
On the other side, the hawks are pushing him in back towards the middle of the ring to bomb Iran.
Trump needs to make the grand gesture soon, like firing John Bolton, but it may not be enough.