The attack on Saudi oil facilities is the latest, most violent, example of an escalating series of gambits rival powers in the Gulf aimed at achieving their objectives by all measures short of all-out war.
The Guardian reports that the chances of avoiding such a devastating conflict diminish each time the stakes are raised.
While Iran has denied responsibility for the attack on an oil field and refining facility, the US, Saudi Arabia and their allies have hesitated over the geographical origin of the air strikes.
“The size and sophistication of the operation however points to a state actor, and it fits a pattern in recent months of increasingly bold Iranian moves intended to raise the costs of the US campaign of maximum pressure and the Saudi war in Yemen”, adds the report.
The report says that while it may be in nobody’s interests to go to war, the political costs for not responding currently fall most heavily on the Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman – and his response is unpredictable.
“We’re not dealing with common sense here. We are dealing with the fact that the Saudi’s have to retaliate one way or the other one form or the other,” said Jean-Francois Seznec, a Gulf expert who teaches at Georgetown University. “Otherwise the position even of the crown prince would be seen as weak in the country and at this point doesn’t have many friends even in his own country at the higher level.”
One option for Riyadh and Washington is a retaliation against a proportionate Iranian target, accompanied by much signalling that it is a limited response. However, Tehran may not see it that way.
“If they retaliate, the Iranians would have to retaliate even more. And we are just in an inertia of war,” Seznec said. “We really are in that situation right now and what’s so scary is that people all agree that this is not good for anybody. But there is nobody who can stop it.”
Via The Guardian