Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif was asked what would happen if the U.S. or the Saudis responded to the attack on a Saudi oil refinery with military force. Zarif replied, “An all-out war.” In his follow up statement, Zarif said Iran doesn’t want war but added, “We won’t blink to defend our territory.” Of course, Zarif is holding to the party line, i.e. the claim that Iran had nothing to do with the attack.
He again denied that Iran was involved in weekend attacks on Saudi Arabia’s oil facilities, which dramatically ratcheted up tensions in the region. Zarif said Yemen’s Iranian-backed Houthi rebels, who claimed responsibility for the attack, have stepped up their military capabilities and were capable of conducting a sophisticated operation such as the one that knocked out half of the kingdom’s energy production.
Probed further, however, Zarif was unable to provide proof that Houthis launched the drones and missiles. “I cannot have any confidence that they did it because we just heard their statement,” said Zarif. “I know that we didn’t do it. I know that the Houthis made a statement that they did it.”
Yes, we all know what the Houthi’s claimed. The problem for Zarif is that some of the cruise missiles used in the attack didn’t make it to their destination and crashed, still mostly intact, in the desert. Those missiles are Iranian designs. The only way Houthi rebels in Yemen would have them is if Iran gave them to them. The Saudi Ministry of Defense put the recovered parts of the missile and several UAV’s used in the attack on display yesterday.
U.S. officials have also confirmed that the attack was launched in Iran, not in Yemen. So what you have here is Iran making another provocative attack on the world’s oil supply and then lying about it and daring anyone to do something about it.
President Trump doesn’t seem to have any interest in escalating this into a military conflict, but given the facts here it’s hard to see how Saudi Arabia can ignore this. Oil production represents about 90 percent of the Saudi economy. This attack briefly crippled more than half of the nation’s total oil production. About half of that lost production has already been restored and the rest is expected to be back to normal within a few weeks. Still, this was a significant attack on the country. The Saudi’s must be thinking that if Iran is given a pass this time, they’re very likely to try it again.
Meanwhile, here in the U.S., the blame-America-first crowd is already swinging into action. As Jazz noted this morning, Tim Kaine has somehow concluded that President Trump is to blame for the Iranian attack on Saudi Arabia. Elizabeth Warren said the other night on Stephen Colbert’s show that there wasn’t enough proof Iran was responsible for us to respond. Of course, that’s exactly what Iran is relying on, i.e. that if they can cloud the issue just enough the anti-Trump elements here at home will shriek over any reaction to Iran’s behavior. So far, it seems to be working for Iran but the threats about “all-out war” sound a lot more like desperation than strength.
Here’s the interview with Zarif: