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Editorial We can and must prevent a US war on Iran

EVERYONE opposed to a new conflagration in the Middle East needs to stand up and be counted.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s claim that Iran is responsible for attacks on oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman does not hold water. Pompeo’s press conference specified no evidence and took no questions.

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif’s assessment that “suspicious doesn’t begin to describe” the timing of the attacks is correct.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was in Iran to discuss options for Tokyo to continue importing oil from it despite US attempts to force the rest of the world to submit to its sanctions regime.

Why Iran would select such a moment to attack oil tankers — one of which was actually Japanese-chartered — is a question Pompeo leaves unanswered.

And this is from a man with a history of wild and implausible claims, from a supposed alliance between Shia Iran and the murderously anti-Shia al-Qaida terror group, to bizarre allegations that Lebanon’s Hezbollah militia is active in Venezuela.

Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt issues dire warnings to Iran about the consequences should it not mend its ways. This charade is as spineless as it is dishonest.

Britain was a signatory to the six-party nuclear agreement with Iran that Donald Trump’s government has single-handedly wrecked. It should be seeking to defend that agreement.

Japan is a US ally but has warned against war. Spain is a Nato member but, in protest at Washington’s warmongering, withdrew its frigate from the carrier strike group the US dispatched to the Gulf.

Iran was not in breach of the terms of the ruined nuclear agreement, and cannot plausibly be seen as responsible for attacks on oil tankers which could not possibly serve its interests.

While the US has been making high-handed demands of the Iranian government for months, such as the 12 conditions Pompeo set out for a new nuclear deal in May, it is clear that — as with the build-up to the disastrous Iraq war 16 years ago and the “weapons of mass destruction” myth — Washington is not interested in the truth of its accusations.

The demands are simply a ritualistic prelude to aggression, no more amenable to negotiation than the roars of the tyrannosaur before it attacks the jeep in Jurassic Park.

It is difficult to exaggerate the catastrophe that a US war on Iran would unleash. The loss of human lives could run into the millions, and the conflagration would risk igniting a wider sectarian Sunni-Shia war with devastating consequences.

One regional actor that has egged Washington on for war with Iran has long desired such an outcome. It is well over a decade since Saudi intelligence chief Bandar bin Sultan al-Saud told MI6 boss Richard Dearlove that “the time is not far off in the Middle East when it will be literally ‘God help the Shia’. More than a billion Sunnis have simply had enough of them.”

Riyadh’s fingerprints were all over the explosion of jihadist terror organisations dedicated to massacring adherents of other faiths, including Shia, that followed the invasion of Iraq.

Any suggestion that its current rulers are more cautious than Prince Bandar is given the lie by the brutal war they are waging on Yemen and the gruesome murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

There is no appetite for this war in Britain. There is little enthusiasm for it even in the United States.

A massive mobilisation for peace could stop this aggression in its tracks. It would put huge pressure on candidates for the Tory leadership to stop fawning on a US president who is widely despised in Britain and, if Labour has the courage to lead it, would put Jeremy Corbyn — who played a leading role in the movement against the Iraq war — at the forefront of a potentially game-changing movement for peace and socialism.

The time to speak out is now.

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