The brass attack, which led to the death of Iranian scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, is sure to anger Tehran. Iranian officials have blamed Israel for the killings and vowed to retaliate immediately. There have been calls within the country to attack Israel’s port of Haifa, but it is unlikely.
In the face of a confrontation with the United States, a key ally of Israel, Iran is well aware that attacks on Israeli and US targets could lead to a nationwide war. But there are other US allies in the region that have become easier targets in recent years.
Gulf Arab states are weaker today due to changing oil markets and US foreign policy priorities. The United Arab Emirates (UAE), which recently negotiated with Israeli officials, has been quick to condemn the killing of an Iranian nuclear scientist.
In fact There is a reason to be afraid in the UAE. Earlier this summer, the Houthis, Iran’s proxies in Yemen, attacked the infrastructure in Saudi Arabia, Abu Dhabi’s closest ally. In June and July, they launched operations in Riyadh and southern Jizan. Missiles and drones were used to attack targets in Asir and Najran.
At least three attacks were carried out in November. On November 11, minor damage to oil facilities in the Saudi port of Jizan was caused. On November 23, a rocket hit an oil refinery in Jeddah. Two days later, an oil tanker carrying oil to the port of Shuqaiq collided with a mine.
The attack on the Red Sea ports was aimed at demonstrating its ability to hit targets across the Arabian Peninsula, far from Houthis-controlled areas.
Diplomatic movements between Riyadh, Tel Aviv and Washington have intensified Houthi attacks. They also coincide with the speculation of a possible “greeting” movement against Iran by the Trump administration.
Note that Iran has only recently begun to use these “infrastructure violence” tactics. Until a few years ago, Iran closed the Strait of Hormuz to threaten retaliation, disrupting oil exports from the Gulf.
More than 20 percent of the world’s oil exports have passed through the Straits, including Iran, and steps have been taken to protect the Gulf from major disruptions to Gulf oil shipments like the United States. Any hostile Iranian action in the Strait of Hormuz could lead to a war that Iranian authorities want to avoid.
Echo of the Jade Stone Revolution
But things have changed in the last few years. First, with the events of the Arab Spring and the capture of the Houthi Sanaa in 2014, Iran gained a significant foothold in Yemen, extending its influence over the Gulf states. Second, in the second half of 2010, US crude oil not only transformed the United States into one of the largest hydrocarbon exporters, but also stabilized the global oil market.
As a result, the political crisis in the Middle East is worrying oil consumers, and Washington is rethinking its responsibilities to its Gulf partners. It is important to note that the volatile oil production in Libya in 2018-2019 and the pragmatic disappearance of Iran and Venezuela from the market have a long-term effect on prices. At best, these events prevent further price declines.
The attack on Saudi oil plants in September 2019 had short-term and long-term effects, although the scale of oil production losses in the market was unprecedented.
In the aftermath, the United States avoided a major response to Iran’s hostile actions. The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Brigadier General Joseph Dunford, made it clear that increasing the number of US troops in the Middle East and providing new weapons to Saudi Arabia would not fully guarantee the security of its oil infrastructure.
As a result, the Gulf states felt left alone to defend themselves and their oil production, and US oil producers took advantage of the situation to increase their share of the US market at their own expense.
Three months later, the United States did not stop when a US contractor was killed in an attack on an Iraqi base planned by Iranian proxies. 2020 In early January, a US drone strike killed Qassem Suleimani, the top commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps in Iran near Baghdad.
It showed that there were red lines that the United States could not allow Iran to cross the Gulf. But they have to do with the lives of US troops and not the oil infrastructure of their allies. In other words, the US’s aggressive approach to Iran does not mean that the US is ready to defend the Gulf states from Tehran’s retaliation.
Washington’s reluctance to use significant military resources to defend the Gulf oil has allowed Tehran to move freely. This development comes at a particularly difficult time for local oil producers.
The current oil shortage is linked to the 2010s and exacerbated by coronavirus outbreaks, which have significantly reduced the revenue of the Gulf monarchy and forced market share. In this situation, disruption of oil production is particularly painful for the Gulf states.
Tehran is in a better position. In June, the Iranian government began construction of the 10,000-kilometer (620-mile) Goureh-Jask pipeline, which would allow it to cross the Strait of Hormuz. US sanctions have disrupted oil trade in the Gulf by cutting it off from the official oil market.
Meanwhile, Tehran-backed Houthis have demonstrated their ability to attack the Red Sea oil refineries and transit routes. This means that even if Riyadh invests in the development of oil-independent infrastructure independent of the Strait of Hormuz, it will not secure its oil exports.
This means that the rise of US crude oil has increased Iran’s chances in the Gulf and opposed it by the United States and Israel. Attempts to create an Arab Axis were thwarted. Today, Tehran has the power to put pressure on Arab monarchs, at least not to support the United States in its anti-Iranian activities. It seems to have failed to some extent the most pressing strategy of the Trump administration against Iran.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Al Jazeera.