The editorial board
The confrontation between the US and Iran risks spinning out of control. If the weekend attacks on Saudi Arabian oil facilities were launched by Iranian proxies, they will mark a reckless escalation both of Tehran’s resistance to US pressure and of its struggle for supremacy with its biggest regional rival. The incident has laid bare, too, the vulnerability of the Saudi oil industry despite its vast military spending — and the influence the kingdom still exerts on global crude prices despite the US shale boom. The pressure on President Donald Trump to retaliate may be irresistible. A wiser, though difficult, course would be to seek ways to de-escalate the situation.
Much is still unclear about Saturday’s attacks. There are claims that they could have originated in Iranian territory, which would amount to an act of war. If Iranian proxies were responsible, it has yet to be established whether they were by drones launched by Houthi rebels from Yemen, or missiles fired from Iraq by Iranian-linked militias. If the former, their sophistication suggests they could only have been carried out with Iranian assistance. If the attacks originated from Iraq, a US ally, that complicates any US response.
The overwhelming likelihood is that this was Iranian technology used to strike at Tehran’s enemies. Targeting the heart of the Saudi oil industry is a graver provocation than seizing tankers in the Gulf, or shooting down US drones. Iran’s attacks have, until now, been carefully calibrated. This one — unless it succeeded beyond Tehran’s expectations — seems a perilous miscalculation.
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