The investigation into last week’s attacks that targeted oil processing facilities in Saudi Arabia are still underway, and the probe needs to be thorough, sifting through every piece of debris, making sure that no stone is left unturned. But as Saudi authorities indicated on Wednesday and since then, this is an operation that carries the fingerprints of Iran.
While Al Houthi rebels say that they were responsible, the reality is that this was an attack that was sophisticated, coordinated, precisely targeted and planned to evade Saudi missile defensive capabilities. That’s a level that certainly seems beyond those of a terrorist group that began as a ragtag cabal but have gained the technology and weaponry to allow them to boast of such an operation. But it begs the question just where and how did they obtain those weapons. There is but one answer — the regime in Tehran.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has visited the region and has made it clear where he believes the responsibility lies, and that is Tehran. In Washington, President Donald Trump also has concluded that the regime in Iran is to blame. He has also ordered the deployment of troops and equipment to the region to bolster air defences. Better air defences and radar capabilities will make it far more difficult for any similar acts of aggression to be carried out.
The government in Iran needs to be under no illusion that its actions in this case, when proved beyond any reasonable doubt, will carry consequences that will cripple its economy. Certainly, it is fully cognizant that it faces a united front who are very capable of military retaliation, but the lifeblood of its economy will suffer through the pressure of increased international sanctions.
The creation of a maritime security contract to escort oil tankers from the Arabian Gulf through the Strait of Hormuz to the waters beyond is also a prudent measure to ensure the that global trade in petrochemical products will continue without threats from Iranian vessels. It is an indication too that the international community is united in standing against the Iranian regime.
The watchwords here are prudence and restraint. Every prudent measure is being taken to contain the threat from Iran, and restraint is being shown by an international community tested by Tehran’s actions. The regime in Tehran, however, should not interpret these as weakness. No, there will be a price to pay — and there is no shortage of time.