On today's BradCast: Already increasing tensions in the Middle East got much higher today after Iran shot down an unmanned U.S. surveillance drone last night, which the Islamic Republic claims had crossed their border into their airspace. The U.S. contends the spy plane, a U.S. Navy RQ-4A Global Hawk that can fly as high as 10 miles in altitude with a wingspan as wide as a Boeing 737, was in international airspace at the time it was downed by an Iranian surface-to-air missile. Both nations suggest they have evidence to support their claims about the location of the craft when it was shot down. [Audio link to show is posted below.]
Tensions in the region have been rapidly rising in recent weeks as the U.S. has blamed Iran, without presenting evidence, for several attacks on shipping tankers near the narrow Straight of Hormuz, which borders Iran in the Persian Gulf and through which 20% of global oil supplies travel. Iran has denied any involvement in those incidents, other than helping to rescue the crew of one of the tankers and extinguishing its fire. But war-hawks in the U.S. have been banging the drums against Iran for some time. They applauded Donald Trump's unilateral withdrawal last year from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA, the landmark deal struck between Iran and seven other nations during the Obama Administration. The hard-fought treaty ended any possibility of Iran enriching uranium for use in weaponry, at least until Trump broke the deal that had lifted crippling, years-long sanctions against Iran. Trump reinstated the sanctions after becoming President and pulling out of the pact that even his own Administration admits Iran has been in full compliance with.
On Thursday, Trump described Iran's action as "a very bad mistake" and "a foolish move", while repeatedly telling reporters "you're going to find out", when asked how and if the U.S. plans to respond. He did suggest, however, during Oval Office remarks, that he believed the incident must have been unintentional or taken by "someone who was loose and stupid" --- as if to suggest he was reluctant to retaliate and/or make the situation worse.
Nonetheless, at the very same time, GOP hawks in the Senate like Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) seemed eager to inflame the situation by warning that Iran "needs to get ready for severe pain," vowing that "if [Iran] is itching for a fight, they're gonna get one."
We're joined today to discuss all of this by DR. ASSAL RAD, Research Fellow and policy analyst at the nonpartisan, nonprofit National Iranian American Council. In a statement today, the group's President, Jamal Abdi, counseled for both nations to "firmly step away from the path to war" by seeking out "third party mediators who can help de-escalate and bring the U.S. and Iran back to the negotiating table."
Rad explains what is known and unknown about the current situation, how dangerous the situation has now become, and how Trump's restoration of sanctions has crippled Iran's economy, at least for the working class, leading to severe shortages of food and medicine. In addition to increasing military tensions, she tells me, Trump's violation of the anti-nuclear pact has led to both increased uranium enrichment --- bringing Iran closer to the ability to build nuclear weapons if they desire --- as well as strengthening the political hand of anti-U.S. hardliners in the Islamic Republic.
"What Trump has done," she tells me, "is played into the hands of the hard-line elements in the country, tarnishing the image of the U.S., which was very positive. But, of course now, as they suffer, it's much easier for that government to point to the United States as the blame."
"On the U.S. side, of course, the argument can be made that there's a credibility issue, given that President Trump has gone back and forth in the tone he takes with Iran. He'll tweet something like 'we're going to end Iran' and 'that was a big mistake on Iran's part', and then walks it back. 'No, we don't want regime change' or 'we don't want a war'. But then he has advisers, like the National Security Advisor John Bolton, who argues exactly for those goals."
"And that's not, by the way, to give credibility to the Iranian side," Rad made clear. "The Iranian side also lacks credibility in their own right. And that's why without a full investigation and having evidence, I would avoid drawing conclusions. And certainly taking action based on conclusions that aren't based on full evidence."
She notes that "sometimes the way that our media frames it, it makes it seem like the Iranian side is an irrational party --- and yet that is the party that agreed to the deal and has abided by that deal, despite the fact that the U.S. abrogated that deal a year ago."
"One of the things that we know about war is that it's unpredictable. We don't know what will be the consequence. And to prevent this sort of unforeseen concern that something terrible could happen, we have the opportunity right now to prevent it," she concludes with optimism, advising fellow Americans to speak out to our representatives in Congress to urge them to find a peaceful solution to the quickly escalating crisis.
Then, just to lighten things up, we turn to our worsening climate crisis! With Republican state Senators in Oregon fleeing the state on Thursday to avoid a quorum needed for final approval of a sweeping bill meant to help curb climate change by reducing carbon and capping greenhouse gas emissions through a cap-and-trade system. Democratic Gov. Kate Brown has now authorized state police to try and find the rogue lawmakers and bring them back to the capital. Meanwhile, back in D.C., Florida Congressmen Ted Deutch (D) and Francis Rooney (R) announced the re-launch of a bipartisan 'Climate Solutions Caucus' with about 60 members, including more than 20 Republicans.
We get some thoughts on both of those stories from a skeptical (cynical?) Desi Doyen, who also joins us for the latest Green News Report, with troubling news on the Trump Administration's official roll back of Obama's landmark Clean Power Plan in favor of scheme to aid the coal industry which, according to Trump's own EPA, will result in the premature deaths of thousands of Americans. But, she's also got some good news for us today --- and not a moment too soon --- out of the state of New York, where lawmakers did not skip the state, but instead adopted one of the world's most ambition climate change action plans...
(Snail mail support to "Brad Friedman, 7095 Hollywood Blvd., #594 Los Angeles, CA 90028" always welcome too!)