President Trump announced on Sunday that the US is “locked and loaded” and ready to respond to the weekend attack on Saudi oil refineries, but is waiting on the Saudis to determine who is to blame. He also suggested he was willing for military action.
On Saturday, drones attacked and caused fires at a pair of Saudi oil refineries. The fires are believed to be going to cause a decline in oil production, though the Saudis expressed hope at starting to restore service by Monday.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was eager to blame Iran for the attack, and even though Iran has already denied any involvement, Sen. Lindsey Graham is urging Trump to just start attacking Iranian oil refineries immediately.
Trump’s suggestion that he’s going to let the Saudis decide who is to blame almost certainly is going to end with Iran being blamed too, even though evidence points to Yemen’s Houthis. The Saudis clearly aren’t going to pass up a chance to egg on the US to go after Iran.
It likely being a strike by the Houthis, however, who are taking credit for it, raises potential problems for the Saudis. The Saudi War in Yemen is going extremely poorly, and the ability of the Houthis of all people to launch drone attacks into key Saudi sites without air defense stopping them suggests this war could quickly get very costly.
These questions about the Saudi lack of air defense are particularly pointed because Saudi Arabia is the third largest military spender on the planet, behind only the US and China. With so much US-made military gear, the Saudis must surely be troubled by their inability to defend vital sites from what are likely trivially low-cost drones.
With expectations that the attacks might have something to do with the price of oil, Trump likely feels obliged to do something other than Tweet “PLENTY OF OIL!” His comments, however, risk committing him to moving against whoever the Saudis choose to blame, which is always going to be Iran.