The attack on Saudi Arabia’s oil and gas facilities in Abqaiq, which has suspended half of the kingdom’s processing — corresponding to 6% of world supply — is a blow to one of the main arteries of the global economy. The Trump administration should use the United Nations General Assembly this week in New York to marshal a global response.
Responsibility for the attacks has been claimed by the Houthi rebels in Yemen, who say they used a swarm of drones to inflict great damage. But there’s also suspicion that Shiite militias in Iraq were the culprits, and that they used cruise missiles.
In geopolitical terms, it might not make much difference: The Houthis and Iraq’s militias are both proxies for Iran, which supplies them with money and materiel, including weapons capable of striking deep into Saudi territory. The Islamic Republic denies any role in the attacks, but it has a long history of using proxies and cutouts to attack its regional rivals. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has put the blame squarely on Iran, adding that there “is no evidence the attacks came from Yemen.”
The Trump administration should act swiftly to present proof of Iran’s culpability before the international community, and press for a unified response, especially from the other major world powers: China, Russia, Germany, France and Britain.
These nations were, along with the U.S., signatories to the 2015 nuclear agreement with Iran. They have tended to be sympathetic toward the Islamic Republic since President Donald Trump’s unilateral decision to abrogate that deal last summer. They have indulged Iran’s recent attacks on shipping in the Persian Gulf, and its decision to accelerate enrichment of uranium.
However much they disapprove of the Trump administration’s policies, these countries need to recognize that a regime that willfully endangers the global economy deserves no sympathy. In word and deed, they should put Tehran on notice that its behavior will no longer be tolerated.
The General Assembly this week provides the perfect platform from which to do this. A resolution from the Security Council condemning Iran’s actions would be a good start. The other signatories should also reimpose economic sanctions on the regime, and be prepared to join a U.S.-led naval force protecting the Persian Gulf.
In the days preceding the annual UN gathering, President Trump seemed of a mind to soften his posture on Iran, even considering easing some sanctions in order to facilitate a meeting in New York with President Hassan Rouhani. It seems the Iranians have acted in manifestly bad faith, rejecting several offers of negotiations. The attacks on Abqaiq — and by extension, on the global economy — should clarify Trump’s thinking. This is the moment to rally the international community to deal with the threat from Iran. – Bloomberg