Saudi Call for the United States to Attack Iran Is Out Of Line

A Saudi Arabian newspaper aligned with the state published an editorial on May 16 saying that the United States should initiate airstrikes against Iran. Despite President Trump’s aggressive stance toward Iran, the encouragement from Saudi Arabia is out of line for several reasons.

First, the Saudis are reacting to attacks on their energy infrastructure, which they blame on Iran. Why should the United States respond to these attacks rather than the Saudis themselves? Saudi Arabia has a substantial military arsenal. Why would they think the United States should fight their battles?

Second, any US military involvement in Iran is unlikely to end quickly. The Saudis realize this and would be happy to tie up the United States and Iran in a protracted conflict similar to the US involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Saudi Arabia and Iran are not on friendly terms, as is well-known, but the United States and Saudi Arabia also have an uneasy relationship for many reasons. Recently, Saudi military intervention in Yemen has been a source of tension, and Americans still remember that almost all of the September 11 hijackers were Saudi citizens. The Saudis would be happy to see both the United States and Iran involved in costly and controversial conflicts. That is what they are encouraging now.

If a military strike against Iran is really the appropriate response as the Saudis see it, they are sufficiently well-armed that they could undertake the strikes themselves.

A third reason is that the United States should not be the world’s policeman and should not get involved in other countries’ affairs. If Iran is behind the attacks on Saudi energy infrastructure, it is in response to Saudi military activity in Yemen. Let Iran and Saudi Arabia settle their own issues.

The Saudi call for the United States to handle their problems through military action is out of line. The United States has armed Saudi Arabia. They can fight their own battles.

Randall G. Holcombe is a Senior Fellow at the Independent Institute, the DeVoe Moore Professor of Economics at Florida State University, and author of the Independent Institute book Liberty in Peril: Democracy and Power in American History.
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