UPDATED: (Amman, Jordan) — Having just been in Saudi Arabia discussing the gravity of the Iran threat with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) and other senior Saudi officials and military commanders, I would say MBS is fiercely determined to work closely with the US and his allies in the region to counter the Mullahs in Tehran.
Then I arrived in Amman as a new crisis erupted between Iran and the Saudi Kingdom.
Vital American-Saudi ARAMCO oil facilities in Saudi Arabia were severely damaged on Saturday by upwards of ten sophisticated attacks,by either drones or cruise missiles, and the U.S. is pointing the finger of blame directly at Iran. This will surely stiffen MBS’ resolve to show steel towards Tehran. Will it do the same in Washington?
US Senator Lindsey Graham, a close Trump ally and a sharp critic of MBS, says it may be time to bomb Iranian oil facilities to send an unmistakable message.
“It is now time for the U.S. to put on the table an attack on Iranian oil refineries if they continue their provocations or increase nuclear enrichment,” Graham tweeted.
“Iran will not stop their misbehavior until the consequences become more real, like attacking their refineries, which will break the regime’s back,” Graham added.
Earlier this summer, US Senator Tom Cotton, also a close Trump confidante, said Iranian attacks on oil tankers in the Gulf — and Iran shooting down a US intelligence drone operating in international airspace over the Gulf — warranted American military retaliation.
Keep a close eye on statements in coming days by Senators Graham and Cotton, along with Senators Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz — each of whom are highly influential with President Trump and among their Senate colleagues — for clues as to where the White House, State and the Pentagon are trending.
Until now, President Trump has not felt military action was needed. Rather, Trump has employed aggressive sanctions against Iran, and the offer of direct talks of Tehran is willing to abandon its regional aggression and nuclear ambitions.
Two big questions:
1. Will these attacks by Iran on a key ally mark a turning point for American Senators who have been furious with MBS? Will they remind Congress that while there are serious matters that need to resolved between Washington and Riyadh, they need to keep their eye on the ball of the seriousness of the Iran threat and why we need to work closely with the Saudis and our other regional allies to neutralize Iran?
2. Will President Trump decide it is time to strike Iran now that Tehran’s attacks in the region are becoming more brazen, rather than engage in direct talks?
I pray it doesn’t come to war, but as I wrote earlier this summer, it seems as if Iran is actively angling for a war.
Raging fires from the drone strikes required ARAMCO to shut down half of their refining operations this weekend, though they are expected to come back online soon. “The production shutdown amounts to a loss of about 5.7 million barrels a day, the kingdom’s national oil company said, roughly 5% of the world’s daily production of crude oil,” reported the Wall Street Journal.
Houthi rebels in Yemen that have been in a long and bloody war with a Saudi-led coalition quickly claimed responsibility.
However, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says there is no evidence the attacks came from Yemen.
“Tehran is behind nearly 100 attacks on Saudi Arabia while [Iran’s president and foreign minister] Rouhani and Zarif pretend to engage in diplomacy,” said Pompeo.
“Amid all the calls for de-escalation, Iran has now launched an unprecedented attack on the world’s energy supply.”
President Trump immediately called Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) to assure him of American solidarity. Most Arab states — including the UAE, Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan and Kuwait — immediately condemned the attacks and vowed to stand with the Saudis.
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