'Fire and fury is upon us': Columnist explains why attack on Saudi oilfield brings us closer to war
US President Donald Trump and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman -- shown here at the White House in 2017. (AFP/File / NICHOLAS KAMM)

On Monday, Saudi oil facilities were hit with a drone strike that U.S. intelligence is claiming originated with Iran.

If this is true, it would be one of many instances in recent months of escalation of tension between Iran and U.S.-allied countries. But as Christopher Dickey warned in The Daily Beast, this event could bring America closer to war than it has yet been.

"Ever since Donald Trump became America’s commander in chief and started creating diplomatic crises around the world, the question has loomed: how will he react if he faces a violent challenge that appears to demand a military response?" said Dickey. "Well, that’s happening right now. The attacks on Saudi Arabia early Saturday morning, cutting its oil production in half, have us on the brink of a huge new Middle East conflict, a massive surge in oil prices, and a global recession."

"The Iranians of course deny involvement. But this is an act of war," wrote Dickey. "It is fire and fury used against a close American ally — a close Trump ally! It seems to be begging for a real, not rhetorical, fire-and-fury response. But a full-on showdown with Tehran is a recipe for global economic disaster, which is why other provocations and smaller attacks were met with U.S. threats of proportional retaliation. But under the circumstances it’s damn hard to know what 'proportional' would mean. The mixed messages coming out of the White House suggested some serious hesitation and confusion. Uber-hawk John Bolton had just been fired as national security adviser. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo jumped into the breach on Saturday to accuse Iran, without offering proof. Trump waited until late Sunday night to tweet that the U.S. is 'locked and loaded' … but that he was waiting for the Saudis to tell him what to do."

"Trump should worry. Very grim scenarios are on the near horizon even if much of the American public is not yet aware as most of the media focus obsessively on domestic political issues, and market analysts try to suppress a growing sense of panic," wrote Dickey. "Reports that the Saudis have 200 million barrels of reserves stored here and there around the world are not particularly encouraging. If their facilities are knocked off-line for 40 days, those will be used up. Oil prices shooting up to $100 a barrel or more won’t threaten U.S. oil supplies, thanks to fracking production that will become a lot more profitable at those prices, but the impact will be felt at the pump, and the slide toward global recession, already exacerbated by Trump’s trade wars, will accelerate."

As Dickey noted, intelligence officials have warned for years that Saudi Arabia's oil fields are a target — and an easy way to provoke war.

"In 2002, former CIA operative Robert Baer sketched some of the doomsday scenarios the intelligence community was worried about then," wrote Dickey. "'Saudi Arabia’s oil system is so target-rich,' he wrote in his book Sleeping With the Devil. 'Any oil extraction, production and delivery system relies on a large, mostly exposed exoskeleton. Add to that the topography of Eastern Saudi Arabia, where the vast oil fields are located — an ocean of sand broken by shifting dunes, all of it sloping gently into the Persian Gulf — and you have a security consultant’s worst nightmare. Taking down Saudi Arabia’s oil infrastructure is like spearing fish in a barrel.'"

Trump's decision to pull out of the Iranian nuclear deal has only made things worse, Dickey noted, because — on top of possibly provoking the escalation in the first place — it has alienated America from the other countries that helped forged the agreement, and makes it less likely they will come to our aid.

"Trump campaigned against the accord and decided to pull out of it last year rather than keeping it and building on it," wrote Dickey. "The other signatories — Germany, France, Britain, Russia and China — warned this was a needless provocation. In fact, they blame Trump for creating the current crisis, and that is one reason they are conspicuously reluctant to support him now in his hour of need."

"Fire and fury is upon us, and it’s not an exaggeration to say there’s going to be hell to pay," concluded Dickey.

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