‘Trump only wants to look strong & raise oil prices by threatening to shoot at Iranian gunboats’

RT – Neither Washington nor Tehran are looking for war, and Trump ordering the US Navy to destroy “harassing” Iranian vessels was likely an attempt to flex his muscles and send a signal to the oil markets, analysts have told RT.

“We have to distinguish between declarations and reality on the ground, where nobody wants a conflict” as it would be a “disaster” for both the US and Iran, Thierry Coville, research fellow at the French research organization IRIS, said.

Earlier on Wednesday, Trump ordered the US Navy to “shoot down and destroy” Iranian vessels if they “harass” American warships in the Persian Gulf. A week ago, a dozen Iranian gunboats intercepted a group of US ships in the area, with the incident leading to an exchange of accusations from each side. The US Navy said the actions of the Iranians were “dangerous and provocative,” while Tehran blasted the Americans for “adventurism” and violation of navigation rules.

Trump’s order is just another salvo in the ongoing ‘war of words’ with Tehran. The US leader “doesn’t want to look weak” either at home and on the international stage and “such statements allow him to look strong,” Coville explained.

In threatening Iran, Trump was actually targeting his electorate at home, because “anything that he’s doing right now has to do with his re-election campaign,” Maxim Suchkov, associate professor at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations, told RT.

With his nation now being the worst-hit in the coronavirus pandemic – over 815,000 have been infected and more than 46,000 have died – the US president is “trying to refocus the public to more conventional challenges to American security than what he has been facing at home,” Suchkov believes.

If you can’t beat the coronavirus in New York, go beat Iran in the Gulf.

Trump’s harsh words may still be about something more than just improving his image. “Another factor could be an unprecedented fall in global oil prices” caused by the pandemic, Hamidreza Azizi, Visiting Fellow at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP), pointed out.

Threats of war have always been an important factor in increasing the oil prices.

Besides, Trump’s instructions were “quite general and prone to operational interpretation” by the US Navy. The word “harass,” which he mentioned when speaking about what would justify the use of force, was too vague and “unclear.” So it’s unlikely that another intercept of US ships by Iranian gunboats, like the one from a week ago, would see any shots fired, Azizi suggested.

The captains of the US vessels will surely think twice before using force, as are they’re well-aware that they are in the range of the Iranian missiles, he added.

However, some sort of confrontation in the Persian Gulf can’t be ruled out completely as Trump’s statement still “increases tensions and makes the situation more risky.”

But even in this case, it wouldn’t necessarily mean that a US-Iran war will break out, Coville said. Sinking a patrol boat can’t compare to the killing of one of top Iranian military commanders, Qassem Soleimani, who perished in a US drone strike in Iraq in January.

And even after that, Tehran “tried to give a calculated response” which would allow it to save face but avoid a direct conflict with Washington. It struck US military bases in the region, but warned the Americans beforehand to minimize the damage, he recalled.