Attack on Saudi Oil Facilities Puts US Commitments to the Test

By Dr. James M. Dorsey
September 20, 2019

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: Neither Saudi Arabia nor the US is rushing to retaliate for a brazen, allegedly Iranian attack that severely damaged two of the kingdom’s key oil facilities. That is not to say that Saudi Arabia and/or the US will not retaliate in what could prove to be a game changer in the geopolitics of the Middle East.

Reading the tea leaves of various US and Saudi statements on the allegedly Iranian attack on the kingdom’s key oil facilities on September 14, it is possible to discern constituent elements that could change the region’s dynamics.

They also shine a spotlight on the pressures on both countries, as well as on shifts in the US-Saudi relationship that could have long-lasting consequences.

With US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visiting the kingdom to coordinate what his office described as efforts to combat “Iranian aggression in the region,” Saudi Arabia and the US will be seeking to resolve multiple issues.

These include collecting sufficient evidence to convincingly apportion blame; calibrating a response that would be appropriate but not drag the US and the Middle East into a war that few want; deciding who takes the lead in any military response, and managing the long-term impact of that  decision on Saudi-US relations and the US commitment to the region.