The Iranian attack against Saudi oil facilities was, devastating. According to CNN, the attack consisted of a combination of drones and missiles that traveled a circuitous route from an Iranian base, over Iraq, then Kuwait, before finally slamming into Saudi oil refineries. Roughly half of Saudi Arabia’s oil capacity has been taken offline for an indefinite period, or five percent of the world capability.
So far a 1970s-style oil shock has been avoided, thanks to a huge oil production capacity in the United States, thanks to the fracking boom, as well as vast oil reserves such as the American National Petroleum Reserve that can be released as needed to blunt huge oil price spikes and shortages.
While President Trump and the Saudi government mull how to respond, Rep Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, a candidate for president of the United States, has made her views known. While President Trump indicated that he would await word of who the Saudis thought was the aggressor, Iran or Iranian backed rebels in Yemen, Gabbard tweeted:
“Trump awaits instructions from his Saudi masters. Having our country act as Saudi Arabia’s bitch is not ‘America First.’”
Gabbard is an Iraq War veteran and is still a member of the Hawaii National Guard. She has parlayed her military experience into an isolationist stance where it comes to virtually all foreign military interventions. Gabbard has come into bitter criticism for meeting with Bashir Assad during a congressional trip to the Middle East. She has claimed that no peace is possible in the region unless Assad is “part of the conversation.” Assad has waged war against his own people, using poison gas and mass murder to attempt to win an uprising against his regime. He is also a firm ally of both Russia and Iran, both of which have deployed troops in Syria.
Gabbard offered another tweet that drove home her feelings about the United States supporting the Saudis in a possible strike against Iranian targets,
“Despicable. Offering to place our military assets under the command of a foreign country—Saudi Arabia—is a disgrace and betrayal of my patriotic brothers and sisters in uniform and to our Constitution. We are not your prostitutes. You are not our pimp.”
Gabbard’s harsh attitude, on one level, would seem odd. Of course, allies in a conflict consult with one another when planning operations against an opponent. The process is as old as military alliances.
On the other hand, Gabbard’s reaction will be understood by many critics of the Saudi government. Saudi Arabia has been a thorn in America’s side since the 1973-74 Arab oil embargo. More recently, Prince Mouhamed bin-Salman, considered by some to be a moderate, has been linked to the grisly murder of a Saudi-American journalist. Jamal Khashoggi. Finally, few people forget that the 9/11 hijackers were mainly Saudi nationals and that they were suspected of having connections to the Saudi government,
On the other hand, most foreign policy analysts believe that ensuring the free flow of oil from the Gulf region is in America’s interests. Iran is threatening that free flow and therefore needs to be stopped. Furthermore, while the Saudi government is not shy of violating human rights, the Islamic Republic of Iran is similarly brutal against its own people. Iran has openly threatened Israel, an American ally, as well as the United States with destruction. The Islamic Republic has been engaged in an on-again-off-again effort to acquire nuclear weapons as well as ballistic missiles with which to deliver them.
President Donald Trump, for his part, seems not very eager to get into a shooting war with Iran, though he has also indicated that he is willing to do so if necessary. After an attack on an American drone, he opted not to launch a bombing and missile raid against the Iranian base that mounted the shootdown, instead deciding on a cyberwar attack that accomplished the same goal of damaging said facility,
As of this writing, American military and intelligence officials and their Saudi counterparts are still evaluating intelligence from the attack, which includes the circuit board from one of the drones that missed its target and landed harmlessly in the desert. No one has indicated when or even if a military response against Iran would be undertaken.