Saudi oil facilities attacked, Trump administration suspects Iran

Without wanting for even a minute to downplay the immense importance of what Brett Kavanaugh did or didn’t do at a party in 1983, I think by far the major news story right now is the drone attack on two major Saudi oil facilities. The two damaged installations process the vast majority of Saudi Arabia’s crude output. Thus, the attacks may significantly disrupt world oil supplies.

Who is responsible for the attacks? Yemen’s Houthi rebels say they are, and they certainly have a motive. Saudi Arabia intervened against the Houthis in the Yemen civil war and has been fighting them for years.

But could the Houthi rebels, unaided, have carried out a drone attack on Saudi oil fields? Maybe. Apparently, they have made effective use of drones in the past.

However, according to the New York Times the Houthis haven’t been able to penetrate as deeply into Saudi territory as these drones did. In addition, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says there is no evidence that the drone attack came from Yemen. He blames Iran.

There are reports that the drones may have been launched from Iraq. If so, that would be consistent with Iranian involvement, given Iran’s influence in Iraq. However, I don’t think such evidence, by itself, would conclusively demonstrate Iranian involvement.

Bernard Hudson is a former director of counterterrorism for the CIA. He’s now a fellow at Harvard specializing in Persian Gulf security issues. In addition, he’s an investor in drones. Hudson says Iran has helped the Houthis develop and perfect drone violence from the sky. This seems quite plausible.

Iran, of course, disclaims any involvement in the attacks on Saudi Arabian oil facilities.

President Trump has stopped short of blaming Iran for the attacks. So, for that matter, have the Saudis. So far.

But Trump has said, “there is reason to believe that we know who the culprit is” and that the U.S. is “locked and loaded depending on verification.” I take this to mean we will respond militarily against the culprit, once we know with a high degree of confidence who it is (or who they are).

Trump’s position makes sense. An attack on the oil producing capacity of a major supplier and ally cannot go unpunished. A military attack would seem to warrant a military response.

At the same time, such a response shouldn’t be undertaken lightly. In my opinion, we need something approaching an airtight case before we should proceed militarily against Iran or anyone else over this matter.

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