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Aramco attack: A big sin or a smart move?

Sep 23,2019 - Last updated at Sep 23,2019

There is no need to make any efforts to conclude that the attack on Aramco facilities was carried out by Iran, and even if it was not (which is unlikely), it is inevitable that Iran is the prime suspect. 

Tehran has always pursued the policy of attack as the best means of defence, but these attacks were never direct; they have always been through allies such as Hizbollah, the Houthis and others, as well as its tactics to create crises in one file to reach gains in another, as happened in the nuclear crisis and the (P5+1) agreement.

In the Aramco attack, Iran was unable to sell the idea that the Houthis were behind the operation. Although Ansarullah has formally claimed the attack, military, geographic and technological logic have completely rejected this claim. Saudi Arabia has clearly accused Iran of having carried out the attack, backed by statements from the United States immediately after the incident and followed by British statements in the same context. 

In trying to read the scene, it is necessary to ask: Has Iran made its biggest mistake, or was the attack a smart and deliberate move?

To try to answer this question, some important facts must be addressed. First, Tehran is well aware that such an operation would place it in direct confrontation with Saudi Arabia and the United States. Everyone knows that Washington will tolerate anything but oil. 

Second, Iran tends to assume that the US administration, despite its hardline rhetoric towards the Islamic Republic, does not really want to enter a direct war, even if there is Saudi pressure in that direction. 

And third, Tehran knows very well that the countries in the region (except perhaps Israel) will make every effort to prevent a war; this applies to countries such as Iraq, Turkey and even the United Arab Emirates.

Based on these facts, it seems that Iran has sought to achieve two objectives with the attack; the first is a painful military and economic strike to Saudi Arabia, and the second is an attempt to drag Washington to the table for direct dialogue on other files, namely the nuclear file and sanctions. 

On the other hand, based on the same facts, Iran may have placed itself in a difficult dilemma. Saudi Arabia, despite the pain caused by this attack, is able to benefit from it significantly. Riyadh can now talk about the Iranian threat not only to the region, but also to the world economy, as a threat that cannot be tolerated.

The Saudis will invest in the incident to assert that the regime in Tehran is aggressive and does not want dialogue, and Iran and its allies will not be able to deny this accusation.

Saudi Arabia’s allies, led by the United States, will take tougher positions on Iran. They might push for UN Security Council sanctions against Tehran. If this happens, it will push Tehran into a very difficult position, and it will have major effects inside of Iran, and the danger to the Iranian regime will be from within. 

The coming days and weeks will answer the question: Was the Iranian attack on Aramco the biggest sin of Tehran, or was it an intelligent and effective tactic?

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