If Iran is Responsible for Saudi Attack, So What? US in Another Undeclared War

-edited

Assume Iran is responsible for the attack on Saudi Arabia. Was it justified?

There's an interesting article in the American Conservative regarding the attack on Saudi Arabia that temporarily took out 50% of Saudi oil refinery capability.

Gareth Porter at the American Conservative makes a good case Evidence of Iran’s Role in Attack Doesn’t Matter.

A set of complex issues related to different Iranian and Houthi weapons systems and other forensic evidence surrounding the destruction at Abqaiq will be the center of attention in the coming days. The forensic evidence presented by the administration may be weak or persuasive, but in either case, it would be a strategic mistake for those who oppose the war in Yemen and America’s involvement in it to make this the story.

It is obvious that whatever the precise nature of the strike, Iran likely played a role in both creating the drones and/or cruise missiles involved and in the strategic rationale for it. But one can argue that both the Houthis and Iran had legitimate reasons for carrying out such a strike.

For the Houthis, it was to force Saudi Arabia to stop its systematic war on the civilian population in the Houthi-controlled zone of Yemen and its denial of its ability to obtain basic goods by air and sea; for the Iranians it was to force the United States to end its blockade of Iran’s economy through pressure on Iran’s customers. Saudi Arabia has violated the most fundamental principles of international law in its aggressive war to change the regime in Yemen, since it was not under attack by the Houthis when it launched that war. Efforts to end the conflict through resistance, negotiation, and strikes on lesser targets in Saudi Arabia had failed to halt what has been broadly regarded around the world as a criminal war.

For Iran, on the other hand, the Abqiaq strike was an absolutely necessary step to signal to the United States that it cannot not continue its assault on the Iranian economy without very serious repercussions. And the timing of the strike is almost certainly the result of the sequence of aggressive, offensive U.S. moves against Iran’s most vital interests ever since the Trump administration tore up the deal on Iran’s nuclear program and reimposed U.S. sanctions.

The United States has carried the practice of secondary boycott (sanctions against states trading with a state the U.S. government has targeted as an enemy) to put pressure on Iranian policy for nearly a quarter century, beginning with the passage of the Iran Libya Sanctions Act (ILSA) in 1996. Now the Trump administration has pushed the use of that instrument to its ultimate conclusion by seeking to reduce Iran’s oil exports—its single largest source of export earnings—to “zero,” as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo proudly declared last April. The administration further plans to reduce Iran’s gas and metal (iron, steel, aluminum, and copper) exports to a minimum as well. In his public presentation of the famous “12 demands” on Iran of May 2018, Pompeo said that the real purpose of the entire exercise was to force the Iranian people to rid the United States of the adversary regime in Tehran.

The Trump policy of “maximum pressure” on Iran thus represents an extreme violation of a state’s right to participate in the global economy, without which a modern state cannot survive. It is the equivalent in trade terms of a naval blockade to starve a nation, and it would be universally recognized as an act of war if carried out by any other state in the world. Iran calls it “economic terrorism.”

In the context of these larger legal and moral issues, the question of the respective roles of Iran and the Houthis in the strike is a matter not just of tactical and propaganda significance but of fundamental principle.

Iran's Military Capability

Iran has plenty of firepower as the American Conservative reports.

The United States was apparently taken by surprise when when Iran shot down a high-altitude but slow-moving U.S. prototype naval variant of the 737-size Global Hawk surveillance drone with a 3rd Khordad missile variant of the Ra’ad surface to air missile system first deployed a few years ago. And Iran’s air defense system has been continually upgraded, beginning with the Russian S-300 system it received in 2016. Iran also just unveiled in 2019 its Bavar-373 air defense system, which it regards as closer to the Russian S-400 system coveted by India and Turkey than to the S-300 system.

Then there is Iran’s development of a fleet of military drones, which has prompted one analyst to call Iran a “drone superpower.” Its drone accomplishments reportedly include the Shahed-171 “stealth drone” with precision-guided missiles, and the Shahed-129, which it reverse engineered from the U.S. Sentinel RQ-170 and the MQ-1 Predator.

If the US attacked Iran, Iran might retaliate with a huge barrage of missiles at Israel and Saudi Arabia.

Thus, to eliminater that threat, the US would have to take out all of Iran's military capability in one shot, before Iran countered with a barrage on Jerusalem.

Is that possible? Likely?

Perhaps that's the only reason Trump has avoided direct military war with Iran so far.

Another Undeclared War

One of the alleged "achievements" of the Trump Administration has been the observation that Trump has not started any new wars, unlike presidents Obama and Bush.

Many writers have made that observation, and heck, I said so myself.

At the same time, I labeled US actions on Iran and Venezuela as economic war.

Is there a moral difference? A legal difference?

I think not in both cases, but especially Iran.

One or Two?

Contrary to popular myth (and I accept my portion of the blame for spreading the myth), Trump has in fact started at least one new war, albeit without sending in troops or weapons.

But even the latter is misleading. The US has taken sides in the Yemen civil war by supplying Saudi Arabia with weapons and now troops.

Trump's Blind Eye as US Troops Head to Saudi Arabia

It's rare for me to side with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on much of anything but she is correct on this.

She is also correct to resist Democrat pressure to impeach Trump.

Rush to Judgement Again

On September 14, eight days ago I commented Saudi Oilfield Attack: By Yemen, Iraq, or Iran? Israel? Production Back Up When?

Today the Wall Street Journal reports U.S., Saudis Look for Iran Link in Weapon Systems

"Experts probe GPS systems in search of ‘smoking gun’ evidence of Tehran’s involvement in Sept. 14 attack; Iran has denied any role"

Officials in Riyadh and Washington have blamed Iran for the attacks and are searching for “smoking gun” evidence. They say they can’t galvanize world support for their view unless they can draw a clear link back to Tehran, which has denied any role in the attacks.

The GPS systems could allow investigators to trace the drones and missiles back to their runways and launchers, which Saudi and American officials believe were in Iran. Inspectors from around the world—including the U.S., France and the United Nations—are scrutinizing pieces of the weapons from the attacks, which temporarily knocked out half of Saudi oil production and rattled the global economy.

Iranian-aligned Houthi rebels in Yemen claimed responsibility for the attacks. Iran has been steadfast in its denials of involvement, saying the attacks were carried out by the militants as retaliation for Saudi airstrikes that have killed civilians. The civil war in Yemen has triggered the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

Lovely.

The US has rushed to judgment once again with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo proclaiming Iranians are 'bloodthirsty,' 'looking for war.'

F that.

It's the US warmongers who are bloodthirsty.

Iran Last Started a War in 1688

Inquiring minds might be wondering, When Did Iran Start a War?

The last time I can find for a truly aggressive Iran was the first half of the 18th Century, under the reign of Nadir Shah (1688-1747), who attacked everybody nearby, including Turkey, Oman, and Afghanistan. In 1739, he invaded India, sacked Delhi, and brought home Shah Jehan’s Peacock Throne (whose gold and jewels were worth about $1 billion at today’s commodity prices) and the Koh-i-Noor diamond (now a 186 carat gem in the Tower of London).

So, maybe if we read of the Iranians digging up Nadir Shah’s body and cloning his DNA, we’d better start actively worrying about them eventually “launching a nuclear first strike.”

Parties vs Policies

I don't give a damn about political parties. I do care about policies.

I am very opposed to wars unless the US is directly attacked.

We had no business in Vietnam (D), Iraq (R), Afghanistan (R), Libya (D) , Syria (D), Venezuela (R), Iran (R).

Hopefully you see the pattern here. Both Democrats and Republicans start wars.

The last two, under Trump, have been economic, so far.

However, administration hawks are begging for war. And Trump's policies are leading to direct US military confrontation.

Achievement in Question

So far Trump's Mideast foreign policy "achievement" has been to not start a war while doing everything humanly possible to start one.

Some Achievement!

Besides, it's not even accurate. The US is very much at war with Iran, and Trump started it.

Addendum

It was inevitable that some warmongering fool would drag Hitler into this discussion, albeit indirectly with a Churchill reference.

Here is my rebuttal to a person equating me to Chamberlain.

  1. Iran has not attacked anyone dating back to the 16th century
  2. To steal Iran's oil, the US, along with the UK overthrew a democratically elected government in Iran to place in a US puppet
  3. Iran has a right to defend itself
  4. Iran has no reason to Trust the US
  5. The US lied about US WOMDs in Iraq, and invaded that country causing widespread destruction
  6. Iran, looking at what the US did to Iraq, decided it needed to defend itself from the US
  7. The US is engaged in an illegal undeclared war on Iran
  8. The US has a history of stupid wars
  9. The war in Iraq led to the formation of ISIS, even Tony Blair admits that
  10. The US took out Libya's president, Muammar Ghaddafi on false pretenses just as progress was being made.
  11. Hillary clinton, Sec of Sate under Obama, bragged "We came, he saw he died". Al Qaeda and ISIS terrorists have been in control of Libya ever since.
  12. The US has no legitimate business in Syria. An overthrown of the Syrian gov't would likely have put Al Qaeda or ISIS in control just as it did in Libya.
  13. The US has spent trillions of dollars in Iraq and Afghanistan and accomplished nothing.
  14. It was Saudi nationals, not Iranians, not Iraqis responsible for 911

Mike "Mish" Shedlock

Comments (68)
No. 1-35
Harry-Ireland
Harry-Ireland

Another long, insightful article. I sincerely hope Trump will resist the calls to arms. Because that call is coming from both parties and institutions. Don't fall for that trap please!

Carlos_
Carlos_

I'm with you %100 on this one. Even if Iran were to say: "yes it was us". How is that an act of war against the US? Since when is the US the puppet of the Saudis? Moreover, how can a kingdom that killed a journalist in a embassy called someone else a "terrorist". Moreover where is FOX, CNN, MSNB etc bringing this point to the public? Are we now the arm forces of the royal family? One last thing Trump may have not jump into a firing war he is, however, walking into one sooner or later

Ebowalker
Ebowalker

Love how the Saudis wage war on Yemenis civilians for 4 years with mass deaths.... they strike back with an attack on oil and we are outraged. You cant make this up.

abend237-04
abend237-04

Iran desperately needs someone, anyone, to attack them just now. It'll be interesting to see if we're smart enough to not do it.

Tengen
Tengen

I have a bad feeling about this troop deployment to KSA. We waited until Friday evening to make the move, minimizing the news cycle, and still haven't revealed how many troops are going. This isn't Trump speaking loudly to get Iran's attention, this was done as quietly as possible.

Even though Trump doesn't seem to really want a war, he keeps edging closer to one. If nothing else, I hope pride keeps him from doing anything stupid since Bolton would crow loudly if an Iran war happens. What's the point of firing Bolton, then publicly insulting him if you carry out his greatest desire anyway?

Oh, then there's that pesky issue of proof that Iran was responsible for any of this in the first place. Is Colin Powell available to address the UN?

HubbaBuba
HubbaBuba

The US has become the Saudi's poodle. We are indirectly supporting the Yemen catastrophe and nation meddling. The Saudi's effectively outsource the dirty work. Iran's Zarif says Saudi, UAE want to "fight Iran to the last American". I.e. About 10 years ago I was in California put up at a top 5-star hotel. It was one of the best hotels I've ever seen. Whom do I meet in the lobby? A group of Saudis in (posh) military outfits there for military training. I've always thought it so unbefitting - military training in the day - tiptop 5-star hotel all the rest of the time. Please, lets not put them out too much as they study killing. "Waiter, waiter!"

abend237-04
abend237-04

Khrushchev was right when he snapped at his son during the Cuban Missile Crisis, "Anyone can start the shooting, but then no one can ever stop it."

thimk
thimk

i have 2 thoughts on the matter at present. didn't Nixon/Kissinger make formal/informal deal with saudis (i.e oil traded in dollars for military protection?) .

thought #2 . maybe trumps sending troops to defuse. this will make it less likely for Iran to counter punch risking US troop deaths. China sending troops to Iran ?

Bam_Man
Bam_Man

US $Petrodollar in its death throes. Expect chaos.

Je'Ri
Je'Ri

"... it would be universally recognized as an act of war ...."

In any case, sanctions or blockades that have the effect of widespead or systematic attack on a civilian population of a state during peacetime or wartime are Crimes Against Humanity as laid out in the London Charter, which was the basis for the Nuremburg Trials.

The Rubicon was crossed a long time ago.

Denker
Denker

The Mullahs/Revolutionary Guard couldn't have a better advocate. Congrats Mish. How many have swallowed the canard that the Houthis attacked Abqiaq and this was about the war in Yemen, You can be sure if Trump hadn't withdrawn from the nuclear accord and squeezed the economy, the regime in Teheran would not have made such a risky move regardless of the carnage in Yemen. Yes, the Iranian regime is peace loving and were provoked. And Syria where it was the Assad regime barrel bombing/gassing its own people, hospitals, schools etc.with Iranian support (Iran supplied the chlorine gas bought from China btw) The Cuban people live 60 years under a communist regime thanks to people like Mish. No, President Kennedy, invading Cuba would be bad for America's image. Let's do a covert operation with Cuban exiles, not dirty our hands and have plausible deniability. The Iranians are getting the green light to go bigger and better after no military reprisal for the tanker attacks and this latest one. Do we ever learn from history? "Peace in our time" award to Mish and the above commentators. Churchill is spinning in his grave.

Mish
Mish

Editor

It was inevitable that some warmongering clown would drag Hitler into this discussion, albeit indirectly with a Churchill reference.

The Facts of the Matter 1: Iran has not attacked anyone dating back to the 16th century 2: To steal Iran's oil, the US, along with the UK overthrew a democratically elected government in Iran to place in a US puppet 3: Iran has a right to defend itself 4: The US lied about US WOMDs in Iraq, and invaded that country causing widespread destruction 5: Iran, looking at what the US did to Iraq, decided it needed to defend itself from the US, and rightfully so 6: The US is engaged in an illegal undeclared war on Iran 7: The US has a history of stupid wars 8: The war in Iraq led to the formation of ISIS, even Tony Blair admits that 9. The US has no legitimate business in Syria. An overthrown of that gov't would likely have put Al Qaeda or ISIS in control 10. The US has spent trillions of dollars in Iraq and Afghanistan and accomplished nothing. 11. It was Saudi nationals, not Iranians, not Iraqis responsible for 911

Now what the F is it about that that you fail to understand? It seem like all of it.

Mish

Country Bob
Country Bob

@Mish Editor wrote "Trump has not started any new wars, unlike presidents Obama and Bush.

Many writers have made that observation, and heck, I said so myself.

At the same time, I labeled US actions on Iran and Venezuela as economic war.

Is there a moral difference? A legal difference?"

.

When the US government declares economic sanctions (war?) against its own citizenry... is there a moral difference? A legal difference?

Bernanke / Yellen / Powell steal the hard earned savings of citizens -- Act of War.

Obama / Pelosi f#ck up our health care, charge us 3x as much for it -- Act of War.

Sanders / Warren implement socialist policies, steal money right left and center, destroy businesses that citizens worked damned hard to build (No Obama, you did not build that, and neither did your socialist comrades) --- Act of War

Why is it bad for Washington DC to declare economic war against the people who raided the US embassy.... but its fine when these criminals declare economic war against US citizens?

I agree with Mish in principal, but I think we need to stop the US government's economic war against US citizens first.

PS -- how are Detroit and Chicago's economic war with its citizens going? Any taxpayers still left in either place?

Country Bob
Country Bob

Mish - "The US is very much at war with Iran, and Trump started it."

Geez... you wonder why people accuse you of Trump Derangement Syndrome.

You forgot about Iran invading US soil when they invaded the US embassy in Tehran. It is well established that embassies are sovereign soil of whatever country, and the host country is committing an act of war if they invade that soil.

Holding dozens of US citizens hostage for 400+ days, after invading US soil to capture them... also a well established act of war.

Both of those offenses happened decades before Trump

And then there is the matter of the US trying to rig Iran's elections in the 1950s and 1960s... and doing about as good a job of it as Comey/Brennan did trying to rig US elections. The US government wasn't just running ads in Iranian magazines, it literally overthrew the elected Iranian government, and installed / re-installed a Shah instead.

That happened before Trump also Mish

And before the US meddled in Iran's affairs, the British empire messed things up to a tea. BP developed many of Iran's oil fields during one occupation or another, only to have them nationalized (by the Shah or by elected government, depending on whom you ask -- but they were nationalized either way).

That happened before Trump also

Mish
Mish

Editor

"You forgot about Iran invading US soil when they invaded the US embassy in Tehran."

Good fucking Lord You forget the CIA overthrowing a government an putting in a US oil puppet. Who started this?

Mish
Mish

Editor

Foreign Policy magazine 64 Years Later, CIA Finally Releases Details of Iranian Coup

New documents reveal how the CIA attempted to call off the failing coup — only to be salvaged at the last minute by an insubordinate spy.

Mish
Mish

Editor

Not sure what Bam_Man means, but the Petrodollar thesis as widely discussed is pure bullshit.

The US is now almost energy independent, but it never made any sense anyway, ever.

Harry-Ireland
Harry-Ireland

Well that escalated quickly. It seems, even though Mish is clearly non-partisan in this discussion and merely states the obvious that war with Iran, in any context (historical or not) is the worst outcome in this crisis. And of course, as expected, some people drag in Trump, Hitler and 'ze Germans'. You know what this thread reminds me of? Weapons of Mass Distraction. Whatever the feck we're witnessing right now, Brexit, impeachment, Russian collusion, the trade war with China, climate change, tensions with Iran, censorship, doctrines, worldwide CB grand theft larceny....it's one thing after another that keeps us on edge. Or maybe distracted enough from the incompetency of modern day politicians. Meanwhile the corrupt media adds fuel to the fire. So knowing all that, I'm actually glad to be here and read some insightful articles that are not propaganda. Sadly, lots of folks just need to push whatever agenda, it seems.

numike
numike

"Don't talk unless you can improve the silence." Jorge Luis Borges

Sechel
Sechel

Complicated situation. U.S. can't let Iran threaten world oil supplies. Would be an economic disaster. U.S. is using Saudi Arabia as a bulwark against Iran. This wouldn't be necessary but the U.S. destabilized when it took out Iraq.

We had a policy that was working to a degree on Iran, the Iran nuclear deal. While not perfect Iran was honoring it. It didn't address missiles or what Iran was doing in Syria, Lebanon and Iraq but it wasn't design to. Trump seemed hell bent on tearing up the deal simply because Obama signed on. Going back to isolating and economically suffocating Iran seems to have backfired. Iran can take far more pain than other countries in the region and thinks nothing of ratcheting up the pressure by going after friends of the U.S.

The latest step of putting troops in Saudi Arabia seems not a Trump response but a typical American one. I could see just about any American President doing just that.

How this ends is anyone's guess but my thinking is there are good odds Trump goes back to the Iran deal tweeks it in some meaningless way and calls it the new improved Trump agreement. Trump has already telegraphed quite strongly in fact that he's not prepared for war with Iran. While Trump is right in not wanting war with Iran it shows his lack of strategic planning since his actions were potentially taking us in that direction. We see once again Trump lacks the ability to play 3-d chess. This is just the latest example.

Sechel
Sechel

Saudi Arabia and Iran are both out of control. U.S. should not be backing a Saudi war in Yemen against the Houthis. As Saudi Arabia's benefactor we're putting American prestige on the line for something that cannot be defended.

Eighthman
Eighthman

The tragedy is that the US will never stop trying to start wars unless it is too broke and weak to do so. This would be similar to Britain trying to get involved in wars in spite of its declining military and struggle to maintain its health care.

2banana
2banana

Seems like a simple a solution.

An Iranian attack on Saudi Arabia should be retaliated by Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia has a modern/well trained air force, tankers, fuelers and EW capability.

America can protect the mainland of SA while the SA takes care of business.

And since Iran likes their proxy wars so much - maybe "someone" should arm the Kurds in the NW of Iran, just in case they want a homeland.

Greenmountain
Greenmountain

Thank you for reminding people that 15 of the 19 hijackers in the 9/11 attack came from Saudi Arabia and the country has never been held accountable. Before we engage in any military action, Americans need a history lesson so they understand this is not a clear cut case of good and bad. Great article. Loved the history.

Webej
Webej

Safer to say the last war of aggression by Persia was 1796 (Krtsanisi). 1688 is the 17th century not the 16th, but 1796 is more commonly quoted (end 18th century).

Sieges have been the primary act of war since forever (hence, castles), and according to international law, a war crime: The most serious war crime is aggression, since all other war crimes flow from it. Venezuela and Iran, as well as Russia are obviously under siege.

There is a great deal of irony in American outrage about the use of drones! Having pioneered murder by drone in Yemen (yes, there it is again) and subsequently killing thousands of innocents in about 37 countries since (including >30 farm labourers in Afghanistan just this week end, though thankfully no refineries were hit as collateral damage).

Americans will not start a war if it doesn't look at the outset like all the casualties will be on the other side. Wake up and smell the coffee. Actually, did you know we have Yemen to thank for the introduction of coffee?

oxen324
oxen324

Just to be pedantic but whoever started the sanctions on Iran and Venezuela started the "war". Also an invasion of Iran would be a risky strategic move. Has every chance of becoming another Vietnam-style war for the US. It would be likely that Iran would attract the support of China and/or Russia.

Another thought would be what would Europe/EU do?

Latkes
Latkes

One of the alleged "achievements" of the Trump Administration has been the observation that Trump has not started any new wars, unlike presidents Obama and Bush.

Many writers have made that observation, and heck, I said so myself.

At the same time, I labeled US actions on Iran and Venezuela as economic war.

Is there a moral difference? A legal difference?

I think not in both cases, but especially Iran.

By that logic there would be no difference even if the US nuked Iran.

FloydVanPeter
FloydVanPeter

"Iran has not attacked anyone dating back to the 16th century"

Iran violated the NPT it signed willingly and benefited from.

Iran operates through proxies. It funds, equips and directs Hezbollah, which did attack Israel.

The Israeli embassy in Argentina was attacked by Iran intelligence and Hezbollah operatives.

Iran has repeatedly threatened Israel with annihilation (while busy at work violating the NPT). While "threat" is not "action", there is little leeway when it comes to nukes.

Iran and its proxy Hezbollah have been involved in the civil war in Syria. I bet that the "recipients" would beg to differ with the assertion that Iran hasn't attacked other countries.

This text does not relate to the issue whether the US should attack or interfere in the situation in the Golf.

Waileong
Waileong
  1. Iran wants to exterminate Israel.
  2. Iran is an enemy of Saudi Arabia, one of America's closest allies in the region.
  3. Iran wants nuclear weapons to achieve 1.
Waileong
Waileong

But the main problem is, the us can't start a war without risk to all its allies in the region.

JKintheUSA
JKintheUSA

Not really insightful IMO but full on personal opinions...I quit you Mish. You're just another unhinged blogger...

mudpuppet
mudpuppet

I truly hope for no war with Iran. But it it comes to that, rest assured that the Israeli military will be involved. There is no way in hell they would simply leave a US military move on Iran open to any Iranian retaliation on Israel. The Israeli military especially it's air force is one of the world's most capable. The same Israeli air force recently bombing Syrian targets while there are Russians on the ground with S-3/400's. And the same Israeli air force that took out the Iranians nuclear reactor in 1981.

FloydVanPeter
FloydVanPeter

OT: The commenting feature here sucks. It lost one and wouldn't allow editing another...

Expat
Expat

Hmm, let's see. It seems Iran (allegedly) attacked one country in the past fifty years. Meanwhile America has attacked all the others and killed several million women and children over the past fifty years. Fuck off, America. Hypocritical chest-thumping to protect a backward, dictatorial theocracy run by corrupt misogynists....and Saudi Arabia.