On 14 September, a drone attack occurred at Saudi Aramco’s facilities, located in the Abqaiq and Khurais oil fields. As a result, Saudi oil production fell by half, which led to the destabilisation of the global oil market and a 15% rise in oil prices. The Houthis, with whom Saudi Arabia has been waging a rather unsuccessful war against in Yemen for several years now, claimed responsibility for the attack. However, France, Germany, the United Kingdom, and the United States were quick to blame Iran. President Trump ordered the tightening of sanctions against the Islamic Republic. Hassan Rouhani raised the logical question of whether there was any evidence of Tehran’s guilt. No evidence has been submitted yet, and nevertheless the media effect of vilifying Iran has been achieved.
In the context of the current international constellation of power and the recent relations between neighbours in the region, no one would expect Iran to have sympathy for the Saudi kingdom. However, it is obvious to any thoughtful observer that the Islamic Republic is number one on the list of suspects. This alone makes the assertion that the decision on the attack was taken in Tehran close to untenable – as much as suggestion that there was instruction from Iran to the Houthis to carry out the operation.
At the same time, it looks rather dubious that the Houthis openly took responsibility for what happened: it is obvious that the pressure exerted on them by the Arab Coalition is going to increase now. While the voices in the West and elsewhere, criticising the KSA and the UAE for civilian casualties in Yemen, will probably become quieter.
However, the key point here is not who initiated the attack (military analysts and other experts will figure that out), but the degradation of international communication. Of particular concern is the lack of communication between world powers, who set the tone for many others. Regrettably, questionable allegations are becoming the new norm in the mainstream diplomatic discourse. Over the past few years, the world has repeatedly witnessed the demise of constructive communication in many arenas. Whether it concerns foreign interference in national elections, cyber-attacks, or other challenges, leading political figures are increasingly resorting to throwing around unfounded accusations. Undoubtedly, these and many other threats may well exist. The struggle for the realisation of interests in international politics today is no less intense than in the past. Naturally, this process involves all available tools, including those on the cutting-edge. However, unsubstantiated allegations as a response to a potential threat can cause any possible reaction, other than trust.
This style of communication in foreign policy can be described as anti-dialogical, as well as aimed at provoking conflict. Whereas its immediate consequence is the intoxication of the already very troublesome media scene and the growth of tensions in interstate relations.
If Iran is really behind the attack, convincing evidence must be provided prior to placing blame (just like in domestic legal proceedings). In the meantime, it looks as if Iran’s traditional antagonists use every occasion to put the country under even greater pressure. For France, Germany, and the UK, who do not fully support the US’ tough anti-Iranian line (including their position on the Iran nuclear deal), the incident also appeared to be a convenient opportunity to demonstrate a transatlantic solidarity that appears to have been weakening lately. As for Washington, the episode now looks like a pretext to an increased presence in the Persian Gulf and an increase in arms sales.
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