The New Yorker:
By Robin Wright
Before he was elected, President Donald Trump went on Twitter tirades against Saudi Arabia. In 2014, he was enraged that the oil-rich monarchy could not protect itself—and that America was defending the kingdom. “Have you been watching how Saudi Arabia has been taunting our VERY dumb political leaders to protect them from ISIS. Why aren’t they paying?” he tweeted. A few minutes later, he added, “Saudi Arabia should fight their own wars, which they won’t, or pay us an absolute fortune to protect them and their great wealth—$ trillion!” In 2015, three months before announcing his candidacy, Trump tweeted, “If Saudi Arabia, which has been making one billion dollars a day from oil, wants our help and protection, they must pay dearly! NO FREEBIES.”
Famous last tweets. During the weekend, after a massive, pre-dawn strike on Saudi’s largest oil-processing center, the President called Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman—the kingdom’s de-facto leader—and vowed support for “Saudi Arabia’s self-defense.” On Sunday night, he tweeted that the United States was “locked and loaded” and ready to act, even amid uncertainty, at the time, about the exact source and method of the attack. The United States was just waiting, he tweeted, to hear from the kingdom “under what terms we would proceed!”
The attack in the heart of Saudi Arabia on Saturday was audacious even by Middle Eastern standards; it set a precedent for the targets, tactics, and scope of warfare in the Persian Gulf and has global ramifications. “This is the mother of all escalations in our region,” an Arab ambassador in Washington told me last weekend. With pinprick precision, the aerial strikes hit more than a dozen oil installations in Khurais and Abqaiq, which is widely considered the most critical single facility for oil supplies in the world. “If you wanted to disrupt global markets, that’s where you’d look,” Jason Bordoff, the director of the Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia University and a former National Security Council official, told me. The billowing black plumes of smoke from Abqaiq, which is near the Persian Gulf coast, in eastern Saudi Arabia, could be seen from space for hours. Khurais, which is farther southwest, is the kingdom’s second-largest oil field.
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