A series of drone attacks on oil refineries in Saudi Arabia on Saturday have triggered a series of charges and denials between the United States and Iran.
Houthi rebels in Yemen have claimed responsibility for the attacks, announcing the success of their drone missions on their al-Masirah television station. They also issued warnings to others in the region that more strikes may be coming.
Companies and foreigners should avoid oil facilities because they may be targeted at any moment, Houthi military spokesperson Yahya Saree said.The Hill
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo disputed the Houthi claim, pinning the responsibility squarely upon the Iranians, whose support of the Houthi rebels has contributed to the widely-held view of the Yemen conflict as a proxy war between Iran and Saudi Arabia.
Iran’s foreign minister responded via the same public medium of Twitter, underscoring the Iranian government’s complete denial of involvement in the attacks:
The finger-pointing has increased as sides have formed, with both groups providing concrete examples of the other’s extensive history of lies and deceit, President Trump has weighed in with an acknowledgment of support for Saudi, a recognition that they are in the leadership role, and a willingness to commit arms to their defense.
The increase in action from Iran and Iran-allied groups is occurring as the Trump administration is weighing its engagement with Iran. A possible deal to get Iran to comply to terms similar to the Obama-era negotiation was exposed last week, leading to some consternation as a detail was revealed that a large payout would have been part of it. Such a monetary incentive was provided under Obama’s deal, but that involved the release of Iranian money held via U.S. sanctions; this would provide taxpayer dollars in what would effectively be a payoff. This weekend, a flap arose over Trump’s denial over willingness to meet with Iran without preconditions, as the President’s cabinet members had already confirmed his readiness to do so.
The importance of Trump’s negotiation stance with Iran lies in the similarity of tactics between Iran and North Korea. Kim Jong Un started by being abnormally belligerent with Trump, and he has been rewarded (after initial threats of nuclear annihilation) with elevated prominence on the world stage, a marked decrease in joint US-South Korea operations, a large fight between their two strongest regional opponents, and even encouragement to South Korea that they consider joining with the North. It is reasonable to believe that Iran might become the sole dominant power in the Middle East with America’s help, if they continue to follow the NK model in their dealings with Trump.