The Trump administration is looking to “build international consensus” against Iran following attacks on oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman. But what does that actually mean? And to what end is it used?
“The focus for myself and Ambassador Bolton and Secretary Pompeo is to build international consensus to this international problem,” acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan told reporters outside the Pentagon on Friday.
Shanahan went on to say that the Pentagon would contribute to this effort by sharing intelligence with allies, as it did Friday when it released a video it claims shows Iran’s Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) removing an undetonated mine from the hull of one of two tankers attacked that morning.
For National Security Advisor John Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, consensus-building will likely take a different shape. Pompeo has already blamed Iran for the attack, citing non-specific “intelligence” and Tehran’s alleged history of “unprovoked attacks” in the region. The State Secretary has jetted off in search of consensus before; taking a tour of the Middle East at the beginning of the year to unite the US’ Arab allies against Iran.
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Bolton has been clamoring for war with Iran for over a decade, advocating pre-emptive strikes on the Islamic Republic since 2008. Shaping consensus for him will likely entail more beating of the war drums on the international stage.
Why build consensus at all? There are two reasons: moral and material.
The US paints itself not as the “world police” but as a moral beacon, an exemplar for “democracies” to aspire to and follow, so the more allies sign on to its cause the more legitimate it looks.
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On a more practical level, going against Tehran is not an endeavor the US can do alone. Iran has a population of nearly 90 million people, the world’s 14th-most powerful military,