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Argument: The Real Reason Trump Won’t Attack Iran The Real Reason Trump Won’t Attack I...
Iran is widely assumed to be responsible for last weekend’s bombardment in Saudi Arabia, in which drone and missile attacks struck two critical Saudi oil facilities, cutting the country’s oil production by 5.7 million barrels per day and reducing global oil supplies by 5 percent. If the Trump administration decides to retaliate for the strikes by attacking Iran, the ensuing confrontation would likely to be labeled another U.S. oil war in the Middle East.
This would be a mischaracterization, however. In this case, oil interests are far more likely to prevent war than provoke it.
A war in the Persian Gulf would profoundly destabilize the global oil system. If the Trump administration decides to strike Iran, unilaterally or in conjunction with Saudi Arabia, and targets the state’s oil facilities, these attacks will take more resources offline. Although Iran’s oil output has declined significantly since the United States reimposed sanctions in 2018, the country still produces more than 2 million barrels of oil per day and exports about half a million barrels per day of petroleum products and liquefied petroleum gas to a variety of resource consumers.
Tehran is also likely to retaliate for U.S. or Saudi strikes, regardless of their targets. If the Iranians directed this response at Saudi oil installations, they could incapacitate additional facilities or interrupt repairs at the Abqaiq processing center and Khurais oil field, the targets of Saturday’s attacks. These initial assaults were far more destructive than many industry analyses anticipated. Core elements of oil processing trains, including stabilization towers and storage tanks, were struck with pinpoint accuracy. Even if Tehran was not directly responsible for these attacks, Saudi officials have that the aggressors employed Iranian weapons. If these claims are accurate, Tehran has the capacity to inflict substantial further damage on the Saudi oil industry. Although Saudi Arabia has presumably reinforced its air defense system after this weekend’s attacks, the kingdom’s ability to protect critical oil facilities from drones and low-flying missiles is now uncertain.
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