By Steve Brown – In our correspondence of June 23rd we examined the reasons – at that time – why the United States will not attack Iran; now, subsequent to the Saudi oil mishap of September 14th let’s reconsider the matter.
According to Donald Trump, “Saudi Arabia oil supply was attacked. There is reason to believe that we know the culprit, are locked and loaded depending on verification, but are waiting to hear from the Kingdom as to who they believe was the cause of this attack, and under what terms we would proceed!”
Trump’s statement is clearly designed to sow confusion (why should the United States act on Saudi Arabia’s behalf?) but more plainly he expresses supreme doubt – from the highest possible level – about the ‘culprit’ in the attack, if attack it was.
One surprising element too is that no one was hurt or injured in the oil fires, and considering the magnitude of the fires and the manned equipment needed to combat them, this statement from Saudi officials is indeed surprising.
To add to the confusion, just hours subsequent to the alleged attack, the US Secretary of State announced that the terminals had definitely been struck by Iran when there was no possible way US State could have known for sure the alleged attack was initiated from there, at that time, a statement that conflicted with Trump’s.
Now days later, the major media and US State (and Saudi) have provided no real evidence to show that Iran was behind the oil terminal explosion. That this was a major issue there is no doubt, but such terminals may experience explosions and fires without “enemy action” being the cause, as today’s explosion at the ENI oil plant in Italy shows. In fact, explosions and fires at oil terminals and refineries are common enough that while they make news, there is no idea that a state actor initiated such trouble, until now.
Since two facilities were struck in succession, Khurais and Abqaiq, it is likely that an attack occurred. But Khurais and Abqaiq are linked by several pipelines, and a problem at Khurais could result in a fire at Abqaiq. Based on release of aerial photos showing the damage the foregoing is unlikely, especially when the distance between the two facilities is so great. Even so, statecraft may account for the release of classified photographs, and since the US government is not credible or trustworthy the photos cannot be believed to be genuine or accurate.
Thus, the only real existing evidence that Khurais and Abqaiq have been attacked comes from the Ansarullah movement itself, which claimed to initiate the attacks. However, such small drones do not have the range or capability to fly great distances, so Ansarullah likely carried out the attacks from Iraq with the help of compatriots there. That is because Ansarullah stands in opposition to the brutal and genocidal Saudi invasion of Yemen.
In aid of Houthi resistance to Saudi aggression there, Iran surely has an interest in supplying Ansarullah’s Houthi fighters with weaponry; and Ansarullah has attacked Saudi territory before from Yemen, usually with little consequence. Iran may likewise benefit from a temporary interruption to Saudi oil supply.
That Ansarullah has the technology and capability to carry out such an attack definitely exists, and Iran likely supplied that advanced technology. To say that Iran was behind the attacks however is purely speculative… there is no proof or evidence of that. Furthermore, to conclude that Iran directly initiated the Saudi oil attacks is implausible.
Since the United States defacto declared war on Iran by withdrawing from the JCPOA agreement and by leveraging new sanctions versus Iran since May of 2018, Iran’s interest is to cultivate support from European partners, from Russia, China, and from India. For Iran to risk such valuable developed and developing relationships by attacking Saudi Arabia makes no sense, and is in fact unconscionable.
But whether the September 14th attack on Saudi oil terminals originated from Iran or from Houthi fighters in Iraq will likely remain unknown, while the US seemingly alleges that the attacks were initiated from Iranian soil.
Let’s suppose the logical US Neonservative/Neoliberal response is to launch an attack on Iranian oil infrastructure in reprisal for the Saudi attacks. Such a strike on Iran’s infrastructure would certainly lead to immediate reprisals and closure of the Strait of Hormuz, with great impact to the world’s economy. Thus, an US attack on Iranian ground infrastructure is unlikely, but the US may renew its push to seize Iranian shipping and vessels, or contractors, carrying Iranian oil.
The US already tried such interdiction tactics, failing to seize the Adrian Darya (Grace-1) or bribe the Captain to turn over the ship; its location here is now quite doubtful. Iran has become expert at cloaking its oil exports, and for the US to attempt such interdiction of Iran’s oil shipments would be foolhardy, outrageously provocative, expensive, and ultimately non-productive.
Going forward, the Israeli election will have some impact regarding US policy versus Iran, because United States foreign policy is in part driven by Israeli political ends. Should Netanyahu prevail in the September 17th election, we can look forward to renewed pressure on Iran and further ratcheting of Gulf tensions. There is already some expectation that Netanyahu will prevail based upon the headlines we see in the western press, fomenting war with Iran over the Saudi attacks.
Note now that the new National Security Advisor Kupperman is not an “improved variety of Neocon” and may be more dangerous than the ousted one. Kupperman is linked to Frank Gaffney Jr, a top Neocon, warmonger, and Israel-firster – even more incendiary and toxic than (what will now appear to be) the mild-mannered John Bolton.
Meanwhile, in the background, more level heads push for peace: namely the Russian leadership, China, and even the Pentagon, warning that war with Iran is not the answer, and will only make matters worse.
Standing in opposition to any such push for detente with Iran is the caustic brew consisting of Netanyahu’s potential election, Kupperman, Pompeo, plus US State and Neoliberals and hedge fund managers all pushing for war – the only possible result of a US State mathematical equation that Trump potentially cannot ignore.
But, in reality, beyond theorizing about the US attacking Iran’s oil infrastructure and seizing ships, can the United States militarily attack Iran on behalf of Saudi Arabia and Israel?
Global alliances have shifted
Turkey has defacto withdrawn from NATO, by its purchase of S-400 missiles and interest in purchasing Russian-made jets. Those purchases and collaboration with Russia guarantee a virtual departure from NATO, even though Turkey has not publicly announced it.
Furthermore, while Turkey’s military bases host US aircraft and operations, Turkey is actively cooperating with Russia and has agreed to partner with Russia on defense projects in Syria. Since Turkey and Russia are cooperating in Syria, no doubt Turkey will cooperate on Iran, too. Indeed, Turkey has publicly stated that it will not allow its bases to be used in any attack on Iran, by the US.
Just yesterday the western press highlighted Iraq’s proximity to the source of the drones used in the Saudi attack, even suggesting that Iraq may be involved. Iraq has demanded for years now that the US cease its occupation of Iraq and remove its forces, and Iraq has likewise stated that it will not allow its territory to be used as a base for attacking Iran.
The potential for Iraqi involvement in local action versus the US in the event of war with Iran is seldom mentioned by the western press, but must be a very real concern for Pentagon war gamers. Since the warming of relations between Iraq and Iran in light of western aggression versus both countries since 2003, an Iraq-Iran bloc versus the US in Iraq – where the US is indeed very vulnerable- is one major new headache for US war gamers, in the event of renewed US aggression in the region.
Next, Imran Khan’s Pakistan has moved away from its alliance with the US to court China. China is Pakistan’s largest trading partner, and China has guaranteed security to Pakistan for Kashmir. Thus, no bases in Pakistan will be provided to the United States for any attack on Iran. China and Russia too have warned Washington that it must not attack Iran.
The United Arab Emirates – traditionally an aggressive US ally in the region – is only too aware of these shifting geopolitical sands, and has recently backed off from its longstanding confrontation with Iran. According to sources, the UAE has reconsidered its support for the US after losing key US corporate contracts to others in the region. Also, the UAE achieved nothing subsequent to its expensive military intervention in Libya and Yemen, did not receive support from the US there, and has concern about the vulnerability of its own economy in the event of a US war with Iran. Reportedly, the UAE had second thoughts too when American treachery resulted in the US unilateral withdrawal from the JCPOA agreement with Iran. In brief, there is no support in the United Arab Emirates for a US war with Iran.
So, only Saudi Arabia remains as a potential host for US aggression versus Iran. For the US and Saudi Arabia to partner in any attack on Iran verges on the impossible, based on the outrage and global response such a partnered attack would incur. The Kingdom has much to lose by hosting US aggression – especially with Russia commanding OPEC+ and even the largely defunct Arab League opposing US aggression versus Iran.
The United States cannot afford another new war
As I wrote on June 23rd, while the Federal Reserve may print the US dollar at will, a new war – especially a major war versus Iran – will weaken the US economically, despite the gamed casino numbers we see daily from Wall Street. If the US were to attack Iran, be sure that the oil market will be mightily affected, causing oil prices to surge exponentially. Indeed, such an oil price effect may be the prick needed to pop the multi-quadrillion inflated USD bubble of public debt and derivative speculation that can burst again… just as it burst in 2008-2009. But this time when the financial collapse occurs, and as Donald Trump has already warned, the new collapse will render the financial collapse of 2008-2009 to be a picnic.
Iran will fight back
Again, as we considered in our article of June 23rd, Iran has a considerable military force at its disposal and has developed advanced new weaponry. From the Grad to the Kornet 9M133, expect an announcement soon that S-400’s and other advanced armaments will be provided to Iran to ensure its right to defend itself. And Iran has upgraded the S-300’s it possesses with their own technology, to achieve performance comparable to the S-400, demonstrated on June 20th when Iran effectively destroyed an US RQ-4 Global Hawk.
Iran has a well-trained military and a very committed people too, who are certainly as proud and defiant in the face of US aggression as any others. That, in conjunction with an already formidable array of defensive weapons to secure Iran’s borders and sea lanes, will guarantee a formidable defense versus the United States. Likewise, the United States generally only attacks states or groups that it considers to be weak, ineffectual and vulnerable, incapable of fighting back. And we know that Iran will fight back!
Iran has partners too; in Lebanon, Egypt, Syria, of course Yemen, Iraq, Pakistan, Kuwait, and even Turkey. So, for the United States to assume that it can attack Iran militarily with impunity and without endangering America’s own global position, is to an extent unfathomable.
The Machiavellian principle that a leader must appear superior to his or her subordinates at all times, certainly holds true with this regime. Donald Trump just appointed a raving psychotic as National Security Advisor, even more heinous than the one he just ousted. And the State Department Trump inherited was already so full of snakes and the DC swamp so deep, it is now a cess pit with its Neocon/Neoliberal stench evident all over the globe.
So, although the above has been based on a logical view of US-Iran tensions, there is no certainty that the United States will refrain from attacking Iran in reprisal for the Saudi oil field fires. Ironically the one man who may be able to prevent the US attack on Iran is the same man who prevented it last time – namely, Donald Trump. And that is perhaps the most frightening prospect of all.
In conclusion, we must hope that cooler heads prevail, unless Trump truly wants to see the end of US global hegemony – at the expense of many thousands of lives – by engaging in a new war versus Iran, a war that will finally remove the United States from its hegemonic perch… We shall see!
Steve Brown is the author of “Iraq: the Road to War” (Sourcewatch) editor of “Bush Administration War Crimes in Iraq” (Sourcewatch) “Trump’s Limited Hangout” and “Federal Reserve: Out-sourcing the Monetary System to the Money Trust Oligarchs Since 1913”. Steve is an antiwar activist, a published scholar on the US monetary system, and has appeared as a frequent guest contributor to The Duran, Fort Russ News, and Strategika51.