KT edit: Trump must step in to reduce tensions in the Gulf

The nuclear deal it struck with the West is in tatters. The regime is desperate.

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Published: Tue 14 May 2019, 7:00 PM

Last updated: Tue 14 May 2019, 9:11 PM

Tuesday's attacks on oil pipelines in Saudi Arabia could ratchet up tensions in the region with the US already ramping up its presence in Arabian Gulf. The Houthi militia based in Yemen claimed they used drones for the attacks but questions linger about the origins of these unmanned aerial vehicles. The militia lack the technical know-how to build these drones, so who assembled it for them? The finger of suspicion points to Iran which has the Houthis on a string. It is known that the militia are Tehran's proxy in Yemen, just like the Hezbollah in Lebanon.
The Houthis dislodged the elected government in Yemen three years ago and have been engaged in hostilities with the Arab coalition led by Saudi Arabia and the UAE till they reached a ceasefire in the port of Hodeida. Meanwhile, Iran has been under pressure with US-led sanctions battering down its fragile economy. The nuclear deal it struck with the West is in tatters. The regime is desperate.
Last week it was reported that Washington was sending an aircraft carrier, the Abraham Lincoln and bomber squadrons with B-52 stealth aircraft. It is not clear if these new deployments have arrived in the region yet, but these military developments have spooked the markets, which have seen their biggest fall this year. On Monday, a report said there is also a proposal to send in 120,000 US troops to the Arabian Gulf which would mean a state of war in the Middle East. Six tankers, including two from Saudi Arabia were hit in an act of 'sabotage' by unknown entities off the Fujairah coast.
A situation is clearly building which could prove dangerous. There are no defensive positions in such a scenario. A wrong move from either side would mean escalation and conflict which would be hard to control. Much will depend on US President Donald Trump and his Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Will they resist the urge of sending in more troops or are they building a consensus with Europe to de-escalate? A confrontation should be avoided at all cost, but how? Trump has said he is open to talking to Tehran. For that he needs emissaries. The EU could use its good offices to put some sense into the regime. Further attacks could put the region in peril. Before that happens, diplomacy must be given a chance.

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