- Hardliners in Iran are trying to prevent a possible meeting of US and Iranian presidents on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York.
- Trump announced on Twitter that the United States was ready to take action against the perpetrators of the attacks.
- Saudi Arabia says it plans to invite UN and international experts to join the investigation into the attacks.
Tensions in the Persian Gulf have increased following Saturday’s drone strike on Saudi Arabia, the United States’ closest ally in the region. Critics of President Donald Trump say he needs to work with his western allies to ease tensions in the Middle East.
It is not yet clear who was behind Saturday’s attacks on Saudi Arabia’s most important oil facilities, nor why Iran and its Houthi rebels in Yemen are calling for an escalation. Christian Hoffman, a journalist with the German magazine Der Spiegel, who has lived in Iran for years, says hardliners in Iran are trying to prevent a possible meeting of US and Iranian presidents on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York.
The attack on Saudi Arabia’s largest oil facilities has heightened tensions between Iran and the US, which began with the US withdrawal from the nuclear deal. Now, for many, the first question is how Trump will react. The silence of the US president from Saturday to Sunday afternoon was puzzling as US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo quickly pressed charges against Iran.
In his first statement, Donald Trump announced on Twitter that the United States was ready to take action against the perpetrators of the attacks, insisting that he is waiting for Saudi Arabia’s confirmation. The New York Times has written that the US president’s decision depends on the opinion of the Saudi Crown Prince— the one who waged a devastating war in Yemen and killed a US-based journalist.
Democratic presidential candidate, and independent Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), reminded Trump that, under the US Constitution, “only Congress— not the President— can declare war.” Sanders predicted that “Congress will not give you the authority to start another disastrous war in the Middle East just because the brutal Saudi dictatorship told you to.”
Saudi Arabia says it plans to invite UN and international experts to join the investigation into the attacks. The Saudi Foreign Ministry, and a spokesman for the Saudi military, said Iranian weapons were used in Saturday’s attacks. Some US officials also believe Saturday’s attacks could not be the work of the Houthis, and that Iran was involved in the attacks.
America’s allies also condemned Saturday’s attacks. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has called on all sides to refrain from further provocations. Attacks such as drone strikes on Saudi oil facilities could have serious repercussions for the entire region. NATO is deeply concerned about rising tensions in the region, Stoltenberg said.
The Trump administration has also been criticized inside the US for supporting the Saudi coalition in the Yemeni war, and not even Republican lawmakers support all of Trump’s policies in the Middle East. Trump’s critics said he not only lacks credible advisors, but he also doesn’t read the reports of US intelligence agencies. For the third time in as many years, Trump fired his National Security Adviser and has not yet announced a replacement. The US Secretary of Defense has just arrived a month ago.
The wisest thing to do is to look at all the political options, the New York Times wrote. US cooperation with its allies has diminished with that of Saudi Arabia and Israel, and Trump’s hope is that Iran is willing to accept a new deal, under pressure from new sanctions. Critics of the US president say it is time for him to consult with Congress, along with major oil-dependent industrialized nations and analysts outside of his government, to find a way to ease tensions.