The Yemeni Army have issued a statement claiming they have launched a ballistic missile which successfully struck a military target in Riyadh. This comes approximately a week after Houthi rebels released footage of a successful missile attack on a Saudi war ship.
The attack on the Saudi ship was the proximate cause which prompted Michael Flynn, President Trump’s National Security Advisor to put Iran ‘on notice’.
Although Iran has and continues to aid the Houthi rebels, it is unclear what if anything Iran had to do with the attack in question.
The Yemeni attack on Riyadh is even more mysterious. The Saudis refuse to comment on or even acknowledge the attack. According to the al-Masdar news agency the Saudis are telling concerned locals that the commotion was the result of an earthquake.
There is of course always the possibility of a false flag attack designed to draw the US into escalating their verbal attacks and ramped up sanctions against Iran. However, the fact that official Yemeni army sources take responsibility for the attack makes such theories less credible though they still cannot be fully discounted.
This necessarily requires a further examination of what Trump might actually do in order to ‘defend’ Saudi Arabia.
Unlike his predecessors, Trump has not always had good things to say about Saudi Arabia. He has called out Riyadh for supporting terrorist groups like ISIS,and he has characterised the country as freeloading off the American defence apparatus. Trump has also made similar statements about some of the US’s European NATO allies.
Trump also is well aware that the Saudis paid millions to Hillary Clinton during her campaign, something which Trump will not easily forget. Also, many Saudi princes have been vocally critical of Trump’s immigration policies.
It is therefore fair to say that Trump is not going to jump when the Saudis tell him to do so.
But here is where it gets interesting. Whilst Trump seems not to be pro-Saudi, individuals in the US ‘deep state’ still remain pro-Saudi; so also are many members of Trump’s administration. What’s more is that one of the areas of agreement between Trump, much of the ‘deep state’, his often fractious administration, and the US military, is an almost pathological hatred of Iran.
Therefore, if Trump feels that he needs an excuse to get tougher on Iran, he may be willing to pretend to care about Saudi Arabia in order to afford himself such an opportunity.
I still stand by my earlier statements that Trump’s war against Iran will be a financial and verbal war in addition to the proxy war between America and Iranian backed forces in Iraq, a war which has raged under the radar since 2003.
However, as Yemeni forces (regular and irregular) which are broadly supported by Iran, continue to attack Saudi forces, many in America will urge Trump to use this as justification for a full on Iran.
It remains to be seen whether Trump has the sense to stand firm against this voices, resisting pressure to take the US into a war with Iran which is neither in its interests nor wished for by the American people.