September 18, 2019

Iran, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, and the Coming War

The echos of Iraq are there for any with ears to hear.

by Chris Thomas

Earlier this week a drone attack on the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia did massive damage to the oil production infrastructure that supplies 5% of the world’s energy needs. The attack, which knocked out a whopping 50% of Saudi oil production capacity took the from of “coordinated drone strikes on the heart of the Saudi oil industry” and the Trump Administration is comparing it — without a whiff of irony — to Saudi Arabia’s own 9/11.

In the time since then the Trump administration has made a series of confusing, concerning statements.

Now there’s a lot to unpack in those statements but let’s take them in chunks.

Nineteen hours after the attacks took place the Secretary of State went on Twitter and named Iran as the perpetrator of the attack. More than a day later the President of the United States suggested the public accusation the Secretary of State made hadn’t been verified.

Then the President suggested that the United States would essentially take the word of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia over whatever our own intelligence says, in effect allowing the Saudis to name targets for the American military.

Meanwhile, Iran is furiously denying any involvement in the attack while a Yemeni rebel group called the Houthi (HOO-thee) claimed responsibility for the attack. That claim is the reason for Pompeo’s closing assertion that “there is no evidence that the attacks came from Yemen.”

While there may not be strong evidence of a Yemeni attack, in the absence of evidence, the Houthi claim is pretty credible. The Houthi have been flying drones into Saudi Arabia for quite some time and while the initial drones they used were probably provided by the Iranians, there’s strong evidence they’ve been able to manufacture their own drones entirely from commercial parts since at least May. Don’t make the mistake of imagining the Houthi as a rag-tag militia hiding in caves; they control a significant chunk of Yemen and possess a sophisticated and evolving military capability. They even have arms shows.

So why is the Trump Administration so insistent that Iran launched the attack?

Well, there are two possibilities here.

Maybe Iran did. Maybe Iran used the fact that the Houthi have been launching attacks on Saudi Arabia using drones to cover its own attack using a similar technology. Maybe US satellites really caught the Iranians prepping the attack on the ground. Maybe the Iranians wanted to spike the global oil price to put pressure on negotiations around their nuclear program. Maybe they got the Houthi to claim responsibility for the attack since the Saudis are already at war with them anyway. Maybe there’s evidence of Iran’s involvement and maybe we’re not sharing it with the world because we’re afraid of revealing US capabilities.

Or maybe not. Maybe the Trump administration is trying to use a Houthi attack to justify an invasion of Iran that the administration has been gunning for since 2017. Maybe administration leaks about satellite images are just another unsourced assertion from an untrustworthy administration. Maybe the Houthi wanted to strike at the lifeblood of the Saudi regime, just as they have before. Maybe they claimed responsibility for the attack because they perpetrated it. Maybe the reason the Trump administration isn’t sharing evidence of Iranian involvement is because there isn’t any.

They’ve certainly never been gun-shy about revealing U.S. capabilities before this. Remember this?

A war with Iran would be dangerous, expensive, and likely bring about catastrophic economic damage. If the Trump administration wants to commit American lives to yet another poorly thought out war with poorly thought out objectives in the Middle East, he needs to provide more than vague assertions and blustery tweets to justify it.

Republicans, and especially this Republican, have not earned America’s trust when it comes to war.

What Can I Do?

Well, for starters, Congress is supposed to be the source of Presidential authority when it comes to war. Rather than meekly accepting the President’s assertion that war is necessary with Iran, Congress could demand that he make the case publicly, under oath, and on the record. But, afraid of being tarred as not “supporting our troops,” Congress won’t make that stand unless we demand it.

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