Whether last weekend’s attacks on the Saudi oil industry were launched from Yemen (by Iran-backed Houthi rebels), from Iraq (by Iran-backed Shiite militias), or from Iran itself, there is no doubt that Tehran is the culprit, writes Ray Takeyh. Noting the long history of the Islamic Republic’s attacks on America’s soldiers, citizens, and allies going unpunished, he urges Washington to take action:
In the coming days, the [Trump] administration will be advised to cool the temperature in the Middle East. It will be cautioned against forceful measures for they could only lead to a wider conflict. It will be accused of somehow instigating this crisis and thus having an obligation to switch tracks. The underlying assumption of all these claims is that the U.S. is somehow responsible for Iranian mischief. But the Islamic Republic responds to resolution, not a retreat from punitive measures. It respects strength, not blandishments.
The task ahead for the Trump administration is a formidable one. It must marshal evidence demonstrating Iranian complicity at a time when most Democrats and European leaders are inclined to blame the [U.S.] instead. It must convince its jittery allies in the Middle East, particularly in the Persian Gulf, to come together and unite behind an anti-Iran stance. It should continue its pressure campaign to reduce Iranian oil exports. It must draw its red lines clearly and unambiguously.
All this is not to suggest a rush to rash action. The Islamic Republic has offered us a unique opportunity to mobilize the international community against it. . . . The theocracy’s most important vulnerability is still its weakening economy, and it is that nerve that Washington should continue pinching. Given this latest Iranian act of terror, the Trump administration may have stumbled on a unique opportunity to make its strategy of maximum pressure a multilateral one.