Saturday 22 June 2019


On June 21, the Saudi-led coalition showcased remains of the projectile the Houthis used in the recent attack on Abha International Airport. The remains, which were inspected by U.S. envoy on Iran, Brian Hook, proved that the projectile was a cruise missile.
Saudi newspaper, Sabq, released photos showing remains of the missile’s fins and fuselage. The characteristics of the fuselage and the fins appear to be similar to that of the Soviet Kh-55 cruise missile.
Saudi-led Coalition Confirms Houthis Used Cruise Missile In Abha Airport Attack (Photos)
Click to see full-size image. Source:
Saudi-led Coalition Confirms Houthis Used Cruise Missile In Abha Airport Attack (Photos)
Click to see full-size image. Source:
One of the photos shows the remains of the missile’s engine, which was identified as the TJ-100. The turbojet engine, that’s is produced by Czech’s PBS Velká Bíteš, is not used in any known missile.
Saudi-led Coalition Confirms Houthis Used Cruise Missile In Abha Airport Attack (Photos)
Click to see full-size image. Source:
While the cruise missile was designed after the Kh-55, it remains unclear if it was indeed developed and manufactured by the Houthis themselves.
In 2017, the Houthis launched what is suspected to be an Iranian Soumar cruise missile, a copy of the Kh-55, at the Barakah nuclear power plant in the UAE. This may explain how the Yemeni group and its backers got familiar with the missile’s design.
Saudi-led Coalition Confirms Houthis Used Cruise Missile In Abha Airport Attack (Photos)
Iranian Soumar missile, a copy of Kh-55. Click to see full-size image.
The Houthis’ new mysterious cruise missile proved to be effective when it hit the arrival terminal in Abha International Airport on June 12 with high-accuracy. The same type of cruise missiles was likely used in the June 19 attack on the al-Shuqaiq Water Desalination and Power Plant in southwestern Saudi Arabia.
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Bias, Lies and Videotape: Doubts Dog ‘Confirmed’ Syria Chemical Attacks

Disturbing new evidence suggests 2018 incident might’ve been staged, putting everything else, including U.S. retaliation, into question.

Global Research, June 21, 2019
Thanks to an explosive internal memo, there is no reason to believe the claims put forward by the Syrian opposition that President Bashar al-Assad’s government used chemical weapons against innocent civilians in Douma back in April. This is a scenario I have questioned from the beginning.
It also calls into question all the other conclusions and reports by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), which was assigned in 2014 “to establish facts surrounding allegations of the use of toxic chemicals, reportedly chlorine, for hostile purposes in the Syrian Arab Republic.”
As you recall, the Trump administration initiated a coordinated bombing of Syrian government facilities with the UK and France within days of the Douma incident and before a full investigation of the scene could be completed, charging Assad with the “barbaric act” of using “banned chemical weapons” to kill dozens of people on the scene. Bomb first, ask questions later.
The OPCW began their investigation days after the strikes. The group drew on witness testimonies, environmental and biomedical sample analysis results, and additional digital information from witnesses (i.e. video and still photography), as well as toxicological and ballistic analyses. In July 2018, the OPCW released an interim report on Douma that said “no organophosphorus nerve agents or their degradation products were detected, either in the environmental samples or in plasma samples from the alleged casualties,” but that chlorine, which is not a banned chemical weapon, was detected there.
The report cited ballistic tests that indicated that the canisters found at two locations on the scene were dropped from the air (witnesses blamed Assad’s forces), but investigations were ongoing. The final report in March reiterated the ballistics data, and the conclusions were just as underwhelming, saying that all of the evidence gathered there provides “reasonable grounds that the use of a toxic chemical as a weapon took place,” due in part to traces of chlorine and explosives at the impact sites.
Now, the leaked internal report apparently suppressed by the OPCW says there is a “high probability” that a pair of chlorine gas cylinders that had been claimed as the source of the toxic chemical had been planted there by hand and not dropped by aircraft. This was based on extensive engineering assessments and computer modeling as well as all of the evidence previously afforded to the OPCW.
What does this mean? To my mind, the canisters were planted by the opposition in an effort to frame the Syrian government.
The OPCW has confirmed with the validity of this shocking document and has offered statements to reporters, including Peter Hitchens, who published the organization’s response to him on May 16.
The ramifications of this turn of events extend far beyond simply disproving the allegations concerning the events in April 2018. The credibility of the OPCW itself and every report and conclusion it has released concerning allegations of chemical weapons use by the Syrian government are now suspect. The extent to which the OPCW has, almost exclusively, relied upon the same Syrian opposition sources who are now suspected of fabricating the Douma events raises serious questions about both the methodology and motivation of an organization that had been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2013 for “its extensive efforts to eliminate chemical weapons.”
In a response to Agence France-Presse (AFP), OPCW director general Fernando Ariasacknowledged there is an internal probe into the memo leak but that he continues to “stand by the impartial and professional conclusions” of the group’s original report. He played down the role of the memo’s author, Ian Henderson, and said his alternative hypotheses were not included in the final OPCW report because they “pointed at possible attribution” and were therefore outside the scope of the OPCW’s fact finding mission in Syria.
Self-produced videos and witness statements provided by the pro-opposition Violations Documentation Center, Syrian Civil Defense (also known as the White Helmets), and the Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS), a non-profit organization that operates hospitals in opposition-controlled Syria, represented the heart and soul of the case against the Syrian government regarding the events in Douma. To my mind, the internal memo now suggests that these actors were engaging in a systemic effort to disseminate disinformation that would facilitate Western military intervention with the goal of removing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad from power.
This theory has been advanced by pro-Assad forces and their Russian partners for some time. But independent reporting on the ground since the Douma incident has sussed out many of the same concerns. From James Harkin, director of the Center for Investigative Journalism and a fellow at Harvard University’s Shorenstein Center, who traveled to the site of the attacks and reported for The Intercept in February of this year:
The imperative to grab the fleeting attention of an international audience certainly seems to have influenced the presentation of the evidence. In the videos and photos that appeared that evening, most analysts and observers agree that there were some signs that the bodies and gas canisters had been moved or tampered with after the event for maximum impact. The Syrian media activists who’d arrived at the apartment block with the dead people weren’t the first to arrive on the scene; they’d heard about the deaths from White Helmet workers and doctors at the hospital.
The relationship between the OPCW and the Syrian opposition can be traced back to 2013. That was when the OPCW was given the responsibility of eliminating Syria’s declared arsenal of chemical weapons; this task was largely completed by 2014. However, the Syrian opposition began making persistent allegations of chemical weapon attacks by the Syrian government in which chlorine, a substance not covered by Syria’s obligation to be disarmed of chemical weapons, was used. In response, the OPCW established the Fact Finding Mission (FFM) in 2014 “to establish facts surrounding allegations of the use of toxic chemicals, reportedly chlorine, for hostile purposes in the Syrian Arab Republic.”
The priority of effort for the FFM early on was to investigate allegations of the use of chlorine as a weapon. Since, according to its May 2014 summary, “all reported incidents took place at locations that the Syrian Government considers to be outside its effective control,” the FFM determined that the success of its mission was contingent upon “identification of key actors, such as local authorities and/or representatives of armed opposition groups in charge of the territories in which these locations are situated; the establishment of contacts with these groups in an atmosphere of mutual trust and confidence that allows the mandate and objectives of the FFM to be communicated.”
So from its very inception, the FFM had to rely on the anti-Assad opposition and its supporters for nearly everything. The document that governed the conduct of the FFM’s work in Syria was premised on the fact that the mission would be dependent in part upon “opposition representatives” to coordinate, along with the United Nations, the “security, logistical and operational aspects of the OPCW FFM,” including liaising “for the purposes of making available persons for interviews.”
One could sense the bias resulting from such an arrangement when, acting on information provided to it by the opposition regarding an “alleged attack with chlorine” on the towns of Kafr Zeyta and Al-Lataminah, the FFM changed its original plans to investigate an alleged chlorine attack on the town of Harasta. This decision, the FFM reported, “was welcomed by the opposition.” When the FFM attempted to inspect Kafr Zeyta, however, it was attacked by opposition forces, with one of its vehicles destroyed by a roadside bomb, one inspector wounded, and several inspectors detained by opposition fighters.
The inability to go to Kafr Zeyta precluded the group from “presenting definitive conclusions,” according to the report. But that did not stop the FFM from saying that the information given to them from these opposition sources, “including treating physicians with whom the FFM was able to establish contact,” and public domain material, “lends credence to the view that toxic chemicals, most likely pulmonary irritating agents such as chlorine, have been used in a systematic manner in a number of attacks” against Kafr Zeyta.
So the conclusion/non-conclusion was based not on any onsite investigation, but rather videos produced by the opposition and subsequently released via social media and interviews also likely set up by opposition groups (White Helmets, SAMS, etc.), which we know, according to their own documents, served as the key liaisons for the FFM on the ground.
All of this is worrisome. It is unclear at this point how many Syrian chemical attacks have been truly confirmed since the start of the war. In February of this year, the Global Policy Institute released a report saying there were 336 such reports, but they were broken down into “confirmed,” “credibly substantiated,” and “comprehensively confirmed.” Out of the total, 111 were given the rigorous “comprehensively confirmed” tag, which, according to the group, meant the incidents were “were investigated and confirmed by competent international bodies or backed up by at least three highly reliable independent sources of evidence.”
They do not go into further detail about those bodies and sources, but are sure to thank the White Helmets and their “implementing partner” Mayday Rescue and Violations Documentation Center, among other groups, as “friends and partners” in the study. So it becomes clear, looking at the Kafr Zeytan inspection and beyond, that the same opposition sources that are informing the now-dubious OPCW reports are also delivering data and “assistance” to outside groups reaching international audiences, too.
The role of the OPCW in sustaining the claims made by the obviously biased Syrian opposition sources cannot be understated—by confirming the allegations of chemical weapons use in Douma, the OPCW lent credibility to claims that otherwise should not—and indeed would not—have been granted, and in doing so violated the very operating procedures that had been put in place by the OPCW to protect the credibility of the organization and its findings.
There is an old prosecutorial rule—one lie, all lies—that comes into play in this case. With the leaked internal report out there, suggesting that the sources in the Douma investigation were agenda-driven and dishonest, all information ever provided to the OPCW by the White Helmets, SAMS, and other Syrian opposition groups must now, in my mind, be viewed as tainted and therefore unusable.
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Scott Ritter is a former Marine Corps intelligence officer who served in the former Soviet Union implementing arms control treaties, in the Persian Gulf during Operation Desert Storm, and in Iraq overseeing the disarmament of WMD. He is a frequent contributor to Global Research
Featured image is from Mikhail Semenov /Shutterstock

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لحظة المواجهة أعادت الاتفاق النووي إلى الواجهة

يونيو 22, 2019

ناصر قنديل

– بينما كانت مصادر موثوقة في طهران تؤكد أنّ قيادة الحرس الثوري الإيراني، أنهت نهارها الطويل بعد إسقاط طائرة التجسّس العملاقة الأميركية، بتصويب منصاتها الصاروخية على كلّ النقاط والمعدات والقواعد الأميركية في الخليج، وابلغت كلّ الذين يتحدّثون عادة بحمل الرسائل بين طهران وواشنطن، أنها ستتعامل مع كلّ استهداف لأيّ نقطة إيرانية بصفته إعلان حرب، كان النقاش الدائر في واشنطن حول كيفية تفادي التورّط في الحرب، والنقاش الدائر في البيت الأبيض حول فرصة لحفظ ماء الوجه، بينما كان قادة الحزب الديمقراطي الأميركي يعيدون الاتفاق على الملف النووي الإيراني الذي وقع عليه الرئيس السابق باراك أوباما، إلى صدارة النقاش، تحت عنوان أنّ الانسحاب من الاتفاق كان خطأ جسيماً وأنّ من فعل ذلك أوصل أميركا إلى مأزق وأذلّ هيبة جيشها، ومنح إيران فرصة الظهور بموقع المتفوق وصاحب الكلمة الفصل.

– في العواصم الأوروبية التي كانت تحت ضغط أميركي شديد عنوانه دعوة أوروبا للانضمام إلى العقوبات على إيران، لأنّ واشنطن تعلم ماذا تفعل ولا تستطيع كشف خطتها، وأنّ إيران قاب قوسين أو أدنى من قبول التفاوض بشروط جديدة هرباً من الاختناق، كان نهار الانتظار الأوروبي طويلاً لمعرفة ما أعدّته واشنطن لهذه اللحظة التي طالما حذرت أوروبا من بلوغها، وكان الجواب الذي تتلقاه هو الابتسامة الساخرة، التي تقول، أنتم لا تعرفون أميركا وإدارة الرئيس دونالد ترامب، وعندما حلت اللحظة فوجئ الأوروبيون بوساطات تريد منهم واشنطن القيام بها، للحصول على قبول طهران بضربة أميركية شكلية ومتفق عليها تحفظ ماء وجه الرئيس الأميركي الذي يؤكد أنه لا يريد الدخول في المواجهة، بينما كانت عواصم أوروبا قد تبلغت سلفاً الجواب الإيراني بالجهوزية لهذه المواجهة إذا تعرّضت إيران لأيّ استهداف أميركي، وكان السؤال الذي تداوله عدد من المسؤولين الأوروبيين هو، لماذا إذن تمّ الإنسحاب من الاتفاق النووي؟

– في السعودية والإمارات شدّ أعصاب وقلق وخوف من تداعيات انفلات الأمر، وغياب أيّ إجراءات بحجم الحؤول دون وقوع الكارثة إذا بدأت الصواريخ بالتساقط فوق الرؤوس، دون أن يجرؤ أحد على القول إنّ حكام الخليج كانوا في خلفية التحريض للخروج الأميركي من التفاهم النووي، لكن في تل أبيب والقدس المحتلة استنفار واتصالات محمومة عبّرت عنها الصحف والمواقع الإسرائيلية التي تحدثت عن تدخل اللوبي الداعم لـ «إسرائيل» في واشنطن لسؤال الرئيس الأميركي عن ماهية الردّ على إيران، وكيفية منع تحويل «إسرائيل» إلى حقل رماية لإيران وحلفائها في المنطقة إذا ما قامت واشنطن بعملية ردّ نتج عنها غضب إيراني وإعلان اعتبار المنشآت الإسرائيلية أهدافاً مشروعة، وإضطرار «إسرائيل» للتورّط في حرب تفوق قدرتها واستعداداتها، في توقيت سيّئ وفي ظرف لا ترغب فيه واشنطن بالذهاب للحرب الشاملة، وصولاً لطلب «إسرائيلي» صريح بعدم القيام بأيّ عمل عسكري يمكن تصنيفه بالكائش بحال عدم الحصول مسبقاً على ضمانات بعدم وقوع ايّ ردّ فعل على «إسرائيل»، بينما كان عدد من المعلقين الإسرائيليين يتساءلون في وسائل الإعلام، أليس بنيامين نتنياهو هو من حرّض ترامب على الخروج من التفاهم النووي باعتبار ذلك مصلحة «إسرائيلية»؟

– موسكو وحدها كانت تصل للنتائج التي توقعتها، فهي تدرك سلفاً أنّ إيران لن تتسامح مع ايّ استفزاز أميركي وأنها قادرة على فعل ذلك، وتملك أدوات تحقيق ذلك، كما تدرك سلفاً أنّ الحشود الأميركية في الخليج لا تشكل قوة حماية للسياسات التي يقودها الرئيس ترامب، وبالتالي كانت موسكو تنتظر اللحطة التي سينكشف فيها الموقف الأميركي الضعيف لتقدّم مبادرتها بتشكيل منصة دولية ضامنة للاتفاق النووي، وتحقيق مصالح إيران التجارية منه، برضا أميركي، كطريق وحيد لاستعادة الاستقرار والهدوء في الخليج، فبدأت موسكو بالتشاور مع الأوروبيين والصين واليابان وبسرعة خاطفة أطلقت إعلانها ببيان عن مجلس الأمن الروسي تؤكد استعدادها لرعاية ائتلاف دولي لتأمين حاجات إيران المالية والنفطية، وبالتوازي تردّ على التسريبات التي تحدّثت عن الاجتماع الذي سيضمّ في القدس المحتلة مستشاري الأمن الأميركي والروسي والإسرائيلي، بالقول إنّ موسكو ستدافع عن المصالح الإيرانية في لقاء القدس.

– المعادلة التي رسمتها واشنطن كانت الحرب المالية الكاملة حتى تقف الحرب العسكرية بشكل كامل، والمقصود وقف أعمال المقاومة في فلسطين واليمن وحشود وتنامي قوى المقاومة في لبنان وسورية والعراق، فردّت إيران بأنّ الحرب المالية الشاملة تعني حرباً عسكرية شاملة، وما يعنيه ذلك من تقابل أميركي إيراني وجهاً لوجه، وها هي المعادلة تتجه لتستقرّ اليوم على قاعدة نصف حرب عسكرية بنصف حرب مالية، فتستمرّ المقاومة ويستمرّ الحصار وتستمرّ العقوبات، لكن المقاومة ليست حرباً شاملة وليس على العقوبات أن تكون حرباً شاملة، وهذه هي قواعد الاشتباك الجديدة التي فرضتها إيران بذكاء استراتيجي عرف كيف يستثمر على الإمساك بلعبة الوقت وخريطة المكان.

– حماية الاتفاق النووي بدون أميركا وبرضاها تشقّ طريقها نحو قمة العشرين.

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Intensive strikes on fortified positions, supply routes of al-Nusra terrorists in countryside of Hama, Idleb

Friday, 21 June 2019 22:44
Hama, Idleb – Syrian Arab Army units carried out intensive strikes on fortified positions and supply routes of terrorist organizations, inflicting losses upon terrorists in personnel and equipment.
SANA said that army units targeted with intensified artillery strikes fortified positions and rocket launch-pads for terrorists of “Jabhat al-Nusra” and other groups affiliated to it on the outskirts of Kafar Zeita and al-Latamina in northern Hama.
The strikes resulted in killing and injuring several terrorists and destroying rocket launch-pads for them.
The army’s strikes came in response to the terrorists’ frequent  attacks on safe villages and towns of Hama, where terrorists positioned in Kafar Zeita and al-Thamina in northern Hama, and on the outskirts of al- Habbit in southern Idleb targeted with several rockets the towns of al-Sheikh Hadid and al-Garniya in northern and southern Hama, causing material damage to the locals’ houses, properties and  a number of agricultural fields.

In southern Idleb, SANA added, the army units targeted with rocket bursts al-Nusra terrorists in al-Mastouma town and the vicinity of Jabal al-Arba’een while heading for south to Ariha city.
A number of terrorists were killed, others were injured, while the rest fled towards the adjacent village of Musaybeen  where some terrorist groups are positioned .
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Iran goes for “maximum counter-pressure”

Pepe Escobar

June 20, 2019

Image result for Iran goes for “maximum counter-pressure”
© Photo:
Sooner or later the US “maximum pressure” on Iran would inevitably be met by “maximum counter-pressure”. Sparks are ominously bound to fly.
For the past few days, intelligence circles across Eurasia had been prodding Tehran to consider a quite straightforward scenario. There would be no need to shut down the Strait of Hormuz if Quds Force commander, General Qasem Soleimani, the ultimate Pentagon bête noire, explained in detail, on global media, that Washington simply does not have the military capacity to keep the Strait open.
As I previously reported, shutting down the Strait of Hormuz
would destroy the American economy by detonating the $1.2 quadrillion derivatives market; and that would collapse the world banking system, crushing the world’s $80 trillion GDP and causing an unprecedented depression.
Soleimani should also state bluntly that Iran may in fact shut down the Strait of Hormuz if the nation is prevented from exporting essential two million barrels of oil a day, mostly to Asia. Exports, which before illegal US sanctions and de facto blockade would normally reach 2.5 million barrels a day, now may be down to only 400,000.
Soleimani’s intervention would align with consistent signs already coming from the IRGC. The Persian Gulf is being described as an imminent “shooting gallery.” Brigadier General Hossein Salami stressed that Iran’s ballistic missiles are capable of hitting “carriers in the sea” with pinpoint precision. The whole northern border of the Persian Gulf, on Iranian territory, is lined up with anti-ship missiles – as I confirmed with IRGC-related sources.
We’ll let you know when it’s closed
Then, it happened.
Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff of the Iranian Armed Forces, Major General Mohammad Baqeri, went straight to the point; “If the Islamic Republic of Iran were determined to prevent export of oil from the Persian Gulf, that determination would be realized in full and announced in public, in view of the power of the country and its Armed Forces.”
The facts are stark. Tehran simply won’t accept all-out economic war lying down – prevented to export the oil that protects its economic survival. The Strait of Hormuz question has been officially addressed. Now it’s time for the derivatives.
Presenting detailed derivatives analysis plus military analysis to global media would force the media pack, mostly Western, to go to Warren Buffett to see if it is true. And it is true. Soleimani, according to this scenario, should say as much and recommend that the media go talk to Warren Buffett.
The extent of a possible derivatives crisis is an uber-taboo theme for the Washington consensus institutions. According to one of my American banking sources, the most accurate figure – $1.2 quadrillion – comes from a Swiss banker, off the record. He should know; the Bank of International Settlements (BIS) – the central bank of central banks – is in Basle.
The key point is it doesn’t matter how the Strait of Hormuz is blocked.
It could be a false flag. Or it could be because the Iranian government feels it’s going to be attacked and then sinks a cargo ship or two. What matters is the final result; any blocking of the energy flow will lead the price of oil to reach $200 a barrel, $500 or even, according to some Goldman Sachs projections, $1,000.
Another US banking source explains; “The key in the analysis is what is called notional. They are so far out of the money that they are said to mean nothing. But in a crisis the notional can become real.  For example, if I buy a call for a million barrels of oil at $300 a barrel, my cost will not be very great as it is thought to be inconceivable that the price will go that high.  That is notional.  But if the Strait is closed, that can become a stupendous figure.”
BIS will only commit, officially, to indicate the total notional amount outstanding for contracts in derivatives markers is an estimated $542.4 trillion. But this is just an estimate.
The banking source adds, “Even here it is the notional that has meaning.  Huge amounts are interest rate derivatives. Most are notional but if oil goes to a thousand dollars a barrel, then this will affect interest rates if 45% of the world’s GDP is oil. This is what is called in business a contingent liability.”
Goldman Sachs has projected a feasible, possible $1,000 a barrel a few weeks after the Strait of Hormuz being shut down. This figure, times 100 million barrels of oil produced per day, leads us to 45% of the $80 trillion global GDP. It’s self-evident the world economy would collapse based on just that alone.
War dogs barking mad
As much as 30% of the world’s oil supply transits the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz. Wily Persian Gulf traders – who know better – are virtually unanimous; if Tehran was really responsible for the Gulf of Oman tanker incident, oil prices would be going through the roof by now. They aren’t.
Iran’s territorial waters in the Strait of Hormuz amount to 12 nautical miles (22 km). Since 1959, Iran recognizes only non-military naval transit.
Since 1972, Oman’s territorial waters in the Strait of Hormuz also amount to 12 nautical miles. At its narrowest, the width of the Strait is 21 nautical miles (39 km). That means, crucially, that half of the Strait of Hormuz is in Iranian territorial waters, and the other half in Oman’s. There are no “international waters”.
And that adds to Tehran now openly saying that Iran may decide to close the Strait of Hormuz publicly – and not by stealth.
Iran’s indirect, asymmetric warfare response to any US adventure will be very painful. Prof. Mohammad Marandi of the University of Tehran once again reconfirmed, “even a limited strike will be met by a major and disproportionate response.” And that means gloves off, big time; anything from really blowing up tankers to, in Marandi’s words, “Saudi and UAE oil facilities in flames”.
Hezbollah will launch tens of thousands of missiles against Israel. As
Hezbollah’s secretary-general Hasan Nasrallah has been stressing in his speeches,
“war on Iran will not remain within that country’s borders, rather it will mean that the entire [Middle East] region will be set ablaze. All of the American forces and interests in the region will be wiped out, and with them the conspirators, first among them Israel and the Saudi ruling family.”
It’s quite enlightening to pay close attention to what this Israel intel op is saying. The dogs of war though are barking mad.
Earlier this week, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo jetted to CENTCOM in Tampa to discuss “regional security concerns and ongoing operations” with – skeptical – generals, a euphemism for “maxim pressure” eventually leading to war on Iran.
Iranian diplomacy, discreetly, has already informed the EU – and the Swiss – about their ability to crash the entire world economy. But still that was not enough to remove US sanctions.

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Trump claims he canceled an airstrike against Iran at the very last minute

June 21, 2019
Trump claims he canceled an airstrike against Iran at the very last minute
The first thing to say here is that we have no means to know what really happened.  At the very least, there are two possible hypotheses which could explain what took place:
1) a US provocation: it is quite possible that somebody in the US chain of command decided that Iran should be put under pressure and that having US UAV fly right next to, or even just inside, the international border of Iran would be a great way to show Iran that the US is ready to attack.  If that is the case, this was a semi-success (the Iranians had to switch on their radars and attack the UAV which is very good for US intelligence gathering) and a semi-failure (since the Iranians were clearly unimpressed by the US show of resolve).
2) an Iranian provocation: yup, that is a theoretical possibility which cannot reject prima facie: in this scenario it was indeed the Iranians who blew up the two tankers last week and they also deliberately shot down the US UAV over international waters.  The goal?  Simple: to show that the Iranians are willing and ready to escalate and that they are confident that they will prevail.
Now, in the real world, there are many more options, including even mixes of various options.  What matters is now not this, as much as Trump’s reaction:
Now, whether this was a US provocation or an Iranian one – Trump’s reaction was the only correct one.  Why?  Because the risks involved in any US “more than symbolic strike” would be so great as to void any rationale for such a strike in the first place.  Think of it: we can be very confident that the Iranian military installations along the Persian Gulf and the southern border of Iran are highly redundant and that no matter how successful any limited US missile strike would have been, the actual military capabilities of Iran would not have been affected.  The only way for the USA to effectively degrade Iranian capabilities would be to have a sustained, multi-day, attack on the entire southern periphery of Iran.  In other words, a *real* war.  Anything short of that would simply be meaningless.  The consequences of such an attack, however, would be, in Putin’s words “catastrophic” for the entire region.
If this was an Iranian provocation, then it was one designed to impress upon the Empire that Iran is also very much “locked, cocked and ready to rock”.  But if that is the case, there is zero change that any limited strike would achieve anything.  In fact, any symbolic US attack would only signal to the Iranians that the US has cold feet and that all the US sabre-rattling is totally useless.
I have not said such a thing in many months, but in this case I can only admit that Trump did the right thing.  No limited attack also makes sense even if we assume that the Empire has made the decision to attack Iran and is just waiting for the perfect time.  Why?  Because the longer the Iranian feel that an attack is possible, the more time, energy and money they need to spend remaining on very high alert.
The basic theory of attack and defense clearly states that the attacking side can gain as a major advantage if it can leave the other side in the dark about its plans and if the costs of being ready for a surprise attack are lower than the costs of being on high alert (those interested in the role and importance of surprise attack in the theory of deterrence can read Richard Betts’ excellent book “Surprise Attack: lessons for defense planning“).
How true is this story about Trump canceling a US attack at the last minute?  It is impossible to know, but it appears to me that it is certain that the nutcase Neocons around Trump wanted the strike.  But it is also plausible (if by no means certain) that at least two groups could have opposed such a strike:
1) The planners at CENTCOM and/or the Pentagon.
2) The planners for Trump’s reelection campaign.
The first ones would lobby against such a strike simply on the sound military grounds mentioned above.  As for the second group, they probably decided (correctly) that if Trump starts a war with Iran which nobody has an “exit strategy” for – this could result in a huge blowback for the entire region and kill Trump’s reelection chances.
In this case, whether Trump listened to either group or simply followed his gut instincts, it appears likely that Trump (maybe a “collective Trump”) said “no, I don’t authorize this”.  In this case, he does deserve our sincere praise and gratitude (irrespective of this past actions and inactions).
In conclusion, I want to show the kind of fantastically stupid, mindbogglingly ignorant and criminally irresponsible war propaganda the so-called “conservative” US media outlets have been spewing.  Check out this one:
Hannity’s flagwaving logorrhea is exactly the kind of total nonsense which will sooner or later result in a major military disaster followed by a collapse of the Empire itself (for a detailed outline of how this is likely to happen, please read John Michael Greer superb book “Twilight’s Last Gleaming“).  The sheer number of counter-factual and plainly stupid things Hannity manages to squeeze into just under 7 minutes is, by itself, a remarkable feat.
Yes, it is a sad day when one has to rejoice that the US President is marginally less stupid and less ignorant than one of the big talking heads on the US idiot box, but these are truly tragic and extremely dangerous times.  And in such times, we have to be grateful for anything, no matter how minimal, which pushes back the inevitable war in the Middle-East (or even the world).
This being said, where do we go from here?
Location of the attacks on tankers
My personal guesstimate and almost baseless speculation is that the attack on the two tankers was probably an Israeli false flag operation which failed to achieve its intended results.  Notice that the attack itself did not take place inside Strait of Hormuz, but south of it, in comparatively more open waters were an Israeli submarine or specialized surface vessel had less changes to be spotted by the Iranians and a much better chance of escape (for example, take a look at the 2nd map shown below and see for yourself how the depth gradient rapidly drops in the Gulf of Oman).
When this attacked failed to achieve the desired effect, the Israelis and their Neocon agents decided to engage into another provocation, this time using a US drone.  I find it likely that in terms of location, the drone was flying inside Iranian airspace, but probably still over water allowing the Empire do claims it’s usual (and CIA-created) cop-out of “plausible deniability” in case of shootdown.
When the Iranians shot down the US UAV, a lot of folks in the USA probably wanted to find out exactly where this UAV was flying at the moment of intercept and since the Iranians probably have a lot of radar and EW data to prove that the UAV was inside the Iranian airspace the only safe course of action would have been to express all forms of protest but not to take unilateral (and, therefore illegal) action.
It is also remarkable that the US has requested that the case of the two tankers and the shooting down of the drone be discussed at the UNSC.  Considering that both Russia and China will veto any resolution condemning Iran, this also appears to be a move to find a pretext not to go to war.
Of course, this might also be a strategic PSYOP destined to lull the Iranians into a false sense of security.  If that is the plan, it will fail:  the Iranians have lived with a AngloZionist bullseye painted on their heads ever since 1979 and they are used to live under constant threat of war.
In conclusion, I am currently very slightly optimistic (48-52%) that the US will not attack Iran in the short term.
In the long term, however, I consider that an AngloZionist attack is a quasi certainty.
PS: a pretty decent topographical map of the Strait of Hormuz
I high resolution topological map of the Strait of Hormuz
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River to Sea Uprooted Palestinian   
The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Blog!