“Trump’s ‘Moderate’ Defense Secretary Has Already Brought Us to the Brink of War” screams the headline on a fake news piece published by The Intercept written by Mehdi Hasan. Hasan writes:
“Defense Secretary James Mattis… wanted the U.S. Navy to ‘intercept and board an Iranian ship to look for contraband weapons possibly headed to Houthi fighters in Yemen. … But the ship was in international waters in the Arabian Sea, according to two officials. Mr. Mattis ultimately decided to set the operation aside, at least for now. White House officials said that was because news of the impending operation leaked.’
“Get that? It was only thanks to what Mattis’s commander in chief has called ‘illegal leaks’ that the operation was (at least temporarily) set aside and military action between the United States and Iran was averted.”
The problem with Hasan’s story is that the United Nations Security Council passed a resolution in April 2015 imploring governments to do exactly what he decries as an act of war: board ships headed for Yemen to look for and confiscate weapons being illegally shipped to Houthi rebels. Resolution 2216 authorizes the following:
“Decides that all Member States shall immediately take the necessary measures to prevent the direct or indirect supply, sale or transfer to, or for the benefit of [Houthi rebels and their allies]….
“Calls upon Member States, in particular States neighbouring Yemen, to inspect, in accordance with their national authorities and legislation and consistent with international law, in particular the law of the sea and relevant international civil aviation agreements, all cargo to Yemen, in their territory, including seaports and airports, if the State concerned has information that provides reasonable grounds to believe the cargo contains items the supply, sale, or transfer of which is prohibited by paragraph 14 of this resolution for the purpose of ensuring strict implementation of those provisions
“Decides to authorize all Member States to, and that all Member States shall, upon discovery of items the supply, sale, or transfer of which is prohibited by paragraph 14 of this resolution, seize and dispose (such as through destruction, rendering inoperable, storage or transferring to a State other than the originating or destination States for disposal) of such items and decides further that all Member States shall cooperate in such efforts”
So far from being an act of war or aggression, boarding Iranian naval vessels bound for Yemen to look for weapons is an act of peace designed to dampen the bloody civil war there by reducing the flow of weapons to rebel forces. Mattis decided against the operation because once word got out, the element of surprise was gone and it’s impossible to catch criminals in the act if they know you’re coming.
Even worse, Hasan turns The Intercept into a mouthpiece for Iran’s warmongering theocracy by quoting a former member of their National Security Council who warns that if the U.S. were to lawfully and peacefully board an Iranian ship looking for illegal weapons shipments that Iran “would retaliate” and has “many other options for retaliation.”
What Hasan is implying throughout his article is that Iran — the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism — is above international law, above United Nations Security Council resolutions, has the right to ship weapons to whomever it pleases regardless of the human cost, and that peaceful lawful measures thwarting illegal Iranian behavior are illegitimate acts of war.
But this is nothing new for Hasan who has a history of writing apologetics for Iran’s brutal and reactionary regime. In 2014, he wrote in The Guardian rationalizing and legitimizing Iran’s possession of nuclear weapons and denouncing sanctions on Tehran as ineffective even though the nuclear deal that averted war was only possible because of a robust multilateral sanctions regime.
Mehdi Hasan and The Intercept show that Alt-Right outlets like Breitbart do not have a monopoly on fake news. The Alt-Left is just as guilty of pushing alternate facts as its right-wing reflection.