The U.S. Shouldn’t Let Saudi Arabia Fight Its Own Wars

Sept. 19 2019

In 2014, Donald Trump tweeted that “Saudi Arabia should fight [its] own wars.” While this comment does not necessarily reflect the administration’s current thinking, one way for Washington to respond to Iran’s recent attack on Saudi oil facilities would be to encourage Riyadh to retaliate militarily while avoiding direct American involvement. Noah Rothman believes this would be a dangerous gamble:

A direct strike on Iranian targets by Saudi forces would signal a new phase in what has been a decade-long covert conflict between Tehran and Riyadh. Though the United States and its allies would provide logistical support to the kingdom, an attack on Iran by a peer competitor in the region would tempt it to respond proportionately and directly. By contrast, a U.S.-led strike on Iranian targets removes that temptation; America’s military dominance ensures that Iran would view such an engagement as an asymmetrical fight from the start, and it would prosecute such a conflict accordingly.

Iran’s aggressive behavior follows a clear pattern of escalation. It has executed sophisticated covert operations targeting the global oil supply by disabling and hijacking ships in the strategically vital Strait of Hormuz. It has destroyed a $120-million American aerial surveillance drone operating above international waters. And now, it has executed an elaborate assault on a Saudi refinery.

Iran is behaving rationally by testing the limits of provocation as a tool of statecraft. Its strategic objective is to stoke anxieties among America’s Middle Eastern and European allies and, ultimately, erode global will to maintain the present suffocating sanctions regime. Eventually, Iran is likely to miscalculate, executing a bloody attack that demands a disproportionate response from the United States. This is an outcome that American policymakers are right to avoid, but not at any cost.

Welcome to Mosaic

Register now to get two more stories free

Register Now

Already a subscriber? Sign in now

Read more at Commentary

More about: Iran, Saudi Arabia, U.S. Foreign policy


For the Time Being, Palestinians Are Best Off under “Occupation”

Nov. 18 2019

Many who profess concern for the Palestinians agree that Israel ought to abandon its presence in the West Bank—which remains controlled by Jerusalem, even as most of its Arab residents live under the governance of the Palestinian Authority (PA). But, writes Evelyn Gordon, the Gaza Strip, from which Israel withdrew completely, provides a clear demonstration why West Bank Palestinians are beneficiaries of the status quo:

Sign up to read more

You've read all your free articles for this month


Sign up now for unlimited access to the best in Jewish thought, culture, and politics

Already have an account? Log in now

Read more at JNS

More about: Gaza Strip, Palestinian Authority, Palestinian economy, West Bank