Friday, September 20, 2019

President Trump Steers Clear of War Footing Toward Iran

Photo: nicholas kamm/AFP/Getty Images
President pushes for U.N. coalition to exert pressure, steps up sanctions on Tehran in wake of attack on Saudi oil facilities
The White House is pushing to build an international coalition to exert pressure on Iran through the United Nations as its chief response to the attack on Saudi oil facilities, an approach consistent with President Trump’s aversion to military intervention, but also reflecting limits on his retaliatory options.
Within about 18 hours of 17 missile strikes on Saudi Arabia oil facilities on Saturday, the Trump administration pinned the blame squarely on Iran, which has denied carrying out the attacks. A day later, after an emergency meeting at the White House with his inner circle, Mr. Trump declared the U.S. “locked and loaded” and ready to respond.
But Mr. Trump’s assertive reaction was peppered with qualifiers—the U.S. intelligence still needed verification, he didn’t know what Riyadh knew, or how Saudi officials wanted to proceed. Since then, the emphasis has been on building a case with allies and others on Iran’s responsibility for the attacks and on signaling that sanctions on Iran will be stiffened.
On Wednesday, Saudi Arabia said it held Iran responsible for the attacks but didn’t directly accuse it of conducting them. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called the attacks “an act of war,” though his remark was part of a speech about the need to pull together a coalition at the U.N., an institution Mr. Trump has repeatedly criticized and that his administration has rarely turned to for help and at times openly undermined.
“We’re working to build out a coalition to develop a plan to deter them, this is what needs to happen,” Mr. Pompeo said aboard a flight to Saudi Arabia.
Also on Wednesday, Mr. Trump said he ordered Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to substantially raise sanctions on Iran. It was the first U.S. policy response to the attacks, but the administration didn’t immediately say what steps it would take, or what more, if anything, it was planning.
Read the rest from the WSJ HERE.

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