CJ Werleman explains the logic behind attempts to escalate tensions in the Gulf: it’s all about bluster, and arms deals

US President Donald Trump is a habitual liar and lifelong grifter. When he isn’t selling vulnerable non-college educated whites into paying tens of thousands of dollars for phony Trump University degrees, he’s selling the rest of us a phony war with Iran, and seemingly the only one not falling for yet another of the president’s bluffs and political gimmicks is the Iranian regime itself.

When the Trump administration announced it was deploying an array of military assets to the Gulf, including Patriot missiles, B-52 bomber force, USS Arlington, USS Abraham Lincoln carrier strike group, a fleet of F-35s, the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit, which was accompanied with this week’s deployment of a further 1,500 US troops, the UK’s The Week asked: “Are We on the Brink of World War 3?” – while the headlines of US media outlets were as bellicose as Trump’s rhetoric towards the Iran.

“If Iran wants to fight, that will be the official end of Iran. Never threaten the United States again!” – tweeted Trump on May 19.


The Red Lines Declared

This immediate and direct threat made by Trump came exactly two weeks after the White House had declared its “red lines,” which outlined an unambiguous promise of what it would do if the US or its allies in the region were attacked or oil supply routes interrupted by Iran or its proxies.

Almost nothing that the administration and its allies say about Iran and the nuclear deal is true.

The American Conservative

“In response to a number of troubling and escalatory indications and warnings, the United States is deploying the USS Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group and a bomber task force to the U.S. Central Command region to send a clear and unmistakable message to the Iranian regime that any attack on United States interests or on those of our allies will be met with unrelenting force.  The United States is not seeking war with the Iranian regime, but we are fully prepared to respond to any attack, whether by proxy, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, or regular Iranian forces,” reads the May 5 statement from the National Security Advisor Ambassador John Bolton.

The administration’s “red line” couldn’t have been made any clearer: attack us, our allies, or oil supply routes in the Gulf and we will meet you with “unrelenting force,” with Trump later promising to “end” Iran if the US is ever “threatened again.”

The Guardian declared, “Iran-US Tensions Are Reaching New Heights – and Neither is Likely to Blink,” while a Reuters poll showed half of all Americans believing the US to headed towards war with Iran.

The Red Lines Crossed

Clearly, however, the regime in Tehran is having none of it, and has called Trump’s war bluff by daring to cross the administration’s “red line” not once, but on no less than five occasions in the past week alone.

There have been attacks on four United Arab Emirates’ tankers. There’s been a drone attack on Saudi oil pipelines. There was an Iranian-backed militia attack on Baghdad’s Green Zone, and then there was a ballistic missile attack on Saudi Arabia’s Mecca province carried out by Iranian-backed Houthis.

But Iran still stands. The regime remains in tact, and rather than having fired a single shot or missile in anger or even retaliation, Trump has responded by telling reporters he’s now “willing to talk with Iran.

Sweetheart arms deals is what US presidents gift Saudi Arabia and its Gulf Allies when they don’t get exactly what they want.

Wait, what? The Obama administration spent nearly 5 years talking and establishing mutual trust with their Iranian counterparts, a painstaking effort that produced what has been described as the “most robust and detailed nuclear agreements ever achieved,” an achievement Trump unraveled solely for the purpose of sating he’s rabidly anti-Obama political base, the same people who would oppose clean drinking water if America’s first black president had come out publicly in favor of it.

Tehran has responded to Trump’s offer to talk, however, by basically telling the US President to go jump in a frozen lake by declaring it will not meet a US delegation “under any circumstances,” justifiably accusing him of being totally untrustworthy, while adding that returning to the agreement that is still is in place with the other signatories to the Iran Deal is the only way forward.


Byline Times is funded by its subscribers. Receive our monthly print edition and help to support fearless, independent journalism.

Moreover, the fact that Trump took the extraordinary step of side tracking the US Congress by invoking “emergency powers” to provide Saudi Arabia and UAE a further US$8 billion worth of weapons tells you everything you need to know about Trump’s failing gambit against Iran.

Sweetheart arms deals is what US presidents gift Saudi Arabia and its Gulf Allies when they don’t get exactly what they want. In this case, a US war against Iran, remembering it was Obama who gave the Saudi royals a record US$115 billion in arms as a sweetener in return for not scuttling the Iran Deal in 2016.

Rooted in Lies

Almost everything Trump and his administration have said about Iran in relation to the denuclearization deal and the escalation to war has been “rooted in lies,” from falsely claiming Tehran was violating the terms of the agreement in 2017 to dishonestly attempting to portray a harmless satellite launch as evidence Iran was building a ICBM capability to promising to retaliate to Iranian aggression.

“Almost nothing that the administration and its allies say about Iran and the nuclear deal is true, and we should all judge their future claims about Iran, the nuclear deal, and Iran’s ballistic missile tests accordingly,” stated The American Conservative, a right wing magazine that’s typically supportive of Trump’s policies.

Let’s not also lose sight of the fact that Trump has made 10,111 false or misleading claims in the 828 days of his presidency, even lying about things we can see with our very own eyes, but we continue to believe him, even when he’s threatening to wage war on Iran, with pretty much every mainstream US media outlet echoing his threat of hostilities by forewarning a probable or high probable chance of the US running head first into yet another disastrous war in the region.

Let’s not also lose sight of the fact that Trump has made 10,111 false or misleading claims in the 828 days of his presidency.

So, there you have it. Tehran has called Trump’s bluff, which essentially has the US president holding a much weaker hand; an increasingly aggressive Saudi Arabia has even more weapons, a successful denuclearization deal remains in limbo, Iran continues to wreck havoc in the region through its proxies, US taxpayers have foot the bill for a phony war, and US mainstream media continues to treat Trump’s lies and schemes as anything but that.

New to Byline Times? Find out more about us


A new type of newspaper – independent, fearless, outside the system. Fund a better media.

Don’t miss a story! Sign up to our newsletter (and get a free edition posted to you)

Our leading investigations include: empire & the culture warBrexit, crony contractsRussian interferencethe Coronavirus pandemicdemocracy in danger, and the crisis in British journalism. We also introduce new voices of colour in Our Lives Matter.

More stories filed under Argument

‘Brexit – Three Years On: The Lie So Etched on Britain’s Body Politic’

, 1 February 2023
Jonathan Lis explores whether telling the truth about leaving the EU would take the entire establishment down too

‘Britannia Chained: Brexit has Left the UK in a State of National Decline’

, 31 January 2023
Three years on from Britain's exit from the EU, the deep impact on our economy and national standing is now undeniable, writes Adam Bienkov

Brexit – Three Years On: Reconnecting the UK with Europe

, 31 January 2023
A Brexit supporter in Westminster in 2019. Photo: Lindsay Lipscombe/Alamy

More from the Byline Family