The world must hold Tehran accountable

Smoke billows from Saudi Aramco oil facilities. AFP
Smoke billows from Saudi Aramco oil facilities. AFP

Discussions over which group was behind the two attacks on Saudi Arabia’s oil production are largely academic. All signs and a long record of meddling in regional affairs point to Tehran and its proxies as the authors of this latest outrage.

The attacks are all the more disturbing because their precise source remains unclear, a tactical obfuscation designed to frustrate a unified, cohesive response.

Yemen’s Houthi rebels have claimed responsibility for the attacks, and not without credibility. The group has reportedly used drones and cruise missiles to attack oil and desalination plants in southern Saudi Arabia and has escalated its offensives since May.

Some believe Tehran-backed militias in Iraq might be responsible while Iran has responded to US accusations of responsibility by threatening to attack American bases in the region with missiles.

Regardless of the location of their instigators, these latest attacks represent an extremely serious escalation, and not just for Saudi Arabia.

UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Dr Anwar Gargash is correct in his assessment that the latest terrorist attacks are symptomatic of a “strategic challenge” to the entire region. Countries in the region are either being used as staging grounds for attacks, or being threatened with being on receiving end of attacks.

The temporary disruption affecting 5.7 million barrels of crude oil production, about half of Saudi Arabia's oil capacity – itself the source of about 8 per cent of the world’s crude supply – shows that Iran’s cavalier behaviour is increasingly becoming a threat to global peace and prosperity.

Since the US withdrew from the flawed nuclear deal, US President Donald Trump has tightened sanctions on Iran and its proxies. With Tehran's economy squeezed and perhaps concluding they have not much to lose, Iran's leaders seem to be lashing out with increasing recklessness.

Regardless of the location of their instigators, the latest attacks represent a serious escalation, and not just for Saudi Arabia

Yet Mr Trump has attempted to extend an olive branch to Iran several times, in the hope of getting its leaders to sit down with him at the negotiating table. Most recently he suggested meeting Iranian President Hassan Rouhani without preconditions at this month’s United Nations General Assembly in New York. But Tehran has persistently declined offers of talks, insisting that all sanctions must be lifted as a prerequisite to any negotiations.

The current crisis, in other words, represents a lack of interest from Tehran in diplomacy, yet diplomacy is still the only hope of resolution without risking an escalation. Those responsible for the Aramco attacks must be reined in and held accountable for their actions. The international community has a responsibility to keep Iran and its proxies in check, not just for the sake of the region but for the world at large. Coming at a time of increasing US-Iranian tensions, there is a heightened risk of escalation leading to war. That cannot be allowed to happen.

Updated: September 15, 2019 07:21 PM


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