On Sept. 14, the Iranian air force attacked the Saudi Arabian oilfields of Abqaiq and Khurais. Eighteen drones and seven cruise missiles brought fire and destruction upon the facilities, from which some five per cent of the world’s supply of crude oil is pulled from the earth each day. The price of oil on international markets immediately spiked.
What also spiked after the attack was the sense of alarm among security establishments in the Middle East. But unlike the price of crude, there has been no retreat to the concern wrought by the Iranian blow. The direct hit on Saudi Arabia and its economy was also a shot across the territorial and economic bows of Iran’s Sunni foes in the region, of European policymakers, of American forces in the area and, of course, of Israel.
The use of cruise missiles introduced a new element of complex precision instrumentation and the potential of devastating havoc that has not been seen in the region before. Indeed, Saudi defences and the American equipment on which those defences relied were unable to stop the missiles.
Not surprisingly, most of the commentary on the incident was generated in Israel. Uzi Even, a renowned Israeli scientist who was involved with the establishment of the nuclear reactor in Dimona, even published an article suggesting that operations at the reactor be suspended because the risk posed by Iranian cruise missiles was now too great to ignore. The mere fact that the report was made public meant that an internal discussion about the implications of Iranian aggression was now fully underway among security chiefs.
One exception among the mostly somnolent Western observers who did understand the significance of the Sept. 14 attack was Thomas Friedman, a columnist at the New York Times. “Whoever in Iran came up with the idea of this daring airstrike just got a big pay raise,” he wrote. “It could not have worked out better. Because the sound you hear coming from every Arab capital and Israel is the same sound you hear from your automated driving assistant when your car has suddenly deviated from the mapped route:
“Recalculating, recalculating, recalculating.”
Shortly after the Iranian attack, Hossein Salami, the head of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, added swagger and edge to the triumphalist, threatening rhetoric of the theocratic regime he serves. He derided Western nations and Western values. The attack against Abqaiq and Khurais, he suggested, had weakened the West’s, and particularly the United States’, resolve to stand with Israel. Defence policy planners in Israel probably agree with him.
The constant, cloying, shameful efforts by the European Union to curry favour with the Iranian regime and the unceasing efforts by the American president to disengage from overseas military commitments seem to prove the truth of Salami’s boast.
In that same speech, Salami said that Iran has prepared “the capability to annihilate” the Jewish state. “The sinister regime (Israel) must be wiped off the map,” he said. “This is no longer an aspiration or a dream anymore, but an achievable goal.” How could Israel not take notice?
“Iran’s is an awful regime,” Friedman wrote. “The ruling clerics have deprived at least two generations of young Iranians the freedom and tools to realize their full potential – one reason that a brain drain and drug addiction are rampant among Iranian youth. While Iran’s people ‘aspire to be like South Korea – and they have the talent to be that – Iran’s hard-line leadership prefers to rule like North Korea,’ observed Karim Sadjapour, a Middle East expert at the Carnegie Endowment.”
The Iranian government – its clerical and military leaders – zealously advocate, and actually attempt to advance, the genocide of the Jews of Israel. That they do so with impunity, without international repercussion or serious reproach, without any political, economic or cultural censure of any kind from other countries, is a mockery of the values of Western society. It is also infuriating. Sadly, however, it is not unbelievable.