US and Iran should strike a face-saving formula

The doctrine was explicitly aimed at Soviet designs on the Arabian Gulf.

By Ramin Jahanbegloo

Published: Sun 22 Sep 2019, 8:00 PM

Last updated: Sun 22 Sep 2019, 10:23 PM

The attack on the Saudi crude-processing installation last week is also being considered as an assault on American credibility in the Middle East. But the instigators of this attack (either Iranians, Houthis or a third country) are quite aware of the Carter Doctrine formulated on January 23, 1980, after the invasion of Afghanistan by the Soviet troops. According to this doctrine: "An attempt by any outside force to gain control of the Arabian Gulf region will be regarded as an assault on the vital interests of the United States of America, and such an assault will be repelled by any means necessary, including military force."
The doctrine was explicitly aimed at Soviet designs on the Arabian Gulf. However, the doctrine clearly defined the Arabian Gulf as a vital US national interest related to the normal functioning of the global economy. If the Carter Doctrine still holds today, the US along with its Nato allies needs to ensure its Arab allies that it will be able to guarantee the stability of the region to protect the world economy.
However, this is a tricky task, which is easier said than done. Undoubtedly, the Pentagon analysts were surprised by the high precision of the attack against the two oil facilities in Saudi Arabia. The satellite images show damages to oil/gas infrastructure at Abqaiq are not only from drones, but also from missiles.
In that case, Houthis could certainly not have done the attack alone. And this attack was not only aimed at Saudis, but it was a warning to all those countries who have an interest in the future of the oil fields in the Middle East and are supporting the American sanctions against Iran.
But the central question is: why would Iran attack Saudi oil installations while its economy is suffering daily from the American "maximum pressure"? Does the Iranian regime intend to provoke the US and its allies in the Arabian Gulf and get them involved in a zero-sum game war which will blow up the global economy?
The answer is simple: The Iranian regime is very conscious of the economic ticking bomb in its backyard. Maybe that is why the more the US puts pressure on Iran, the more the strategies pursued by Tehran become riskier, simply because the Iranian authorities are desperate and they feel that they have nothing to lose.
The attacks on Saudi Arabian oil facilities at Abqaiq exemplify the risks that the Iranian regime is ready to take to demonstrate that they can be a serious threat to the strategic interests of the US and Europe in the region. Iran is reinforcing partnership with China for economic relief.
The Iranian regime will continue to be seen as a threat to international security and stability. However, the strategic outlook inside Iran continues to consider the Strait of Hormuz and Iranian regime with it as a point of dispute and controversy in the US-China, US-Russia rivalries.
Maybe that is why, the de-escalation of tensions and the end of hostilities between Iran and the US are not for tomorrow, although both Iran and the US seem to be rowing back from a possible confrontation. Ultimately, there are no exit strategies which could fit nicely within the Iranian Revolutionary Guard's or Trump's parameters.  
Ramin Jahanbegloo is director at Jindal Global University, India

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