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Saudi Oil Refinery Attack Raises Fears of "Wider Regional War" Involving U.S. & Iran

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AMY GOODMAN: Explain what is known at this point.

PETER SALISBURY: What is known, again, is that the facility was hit. What it was hit by isn't even known yet. So, initially, what we were told was there were drone strikes. Now we're told that they were missile strikes. And what is possible, there was some sort of combination of both, and even potentially from both directions. We're at a real trigger point, though, here. And what we've seen is the U.S. saying that they want the Saudis to come out and say what they think happened. And if the Saudis come out and say this was Iran, then the expectation is that they will take some sort of retaliatory action.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, President Trump said "locked and loaded."

PETER SALISBURY: "Locked and loaded."

AMY GOODMAN: Basically awaiting Saudi Arabia's direction.

PETER SALISBURY: Yes.

AMY GOODMAN: The United States awaiting what Saudi Arabia is telling us to do.

PETER SALISBURY: Absolutely. And this is reminiscent of attacks earlier this year on oil tankers off the coast of Fujairah in the United Arab Emirates, where the U.S. came out pretty strongly and said this was Iran, and the UAE, in the end, said that they could not ascertain who was behind the attacks, because of the potential cost of retaliation against Iran, that would lead, in turn, to retaliation against the UAE. So the decision point really sits with the Saudis right now in terms of what happens next.

AMY GOODMAN: Medea Benjamin of CodePink in Washington, D.C., your response to what's taken place this weekend and President Trump saying the U.S. is "locked and loaded"? And Secretary of State Pompeo now, mind you, the very serious Iran hawk, not that Pompeo isn't, John Bolton, was ousted last week by President Trump, and now you see this escalation of pressure Iran. If you can respond to the "locked and loaded" response and what took place in Saudi Arabia?

MEDEA BENJAMIN: Well, let's remember that Saudi Arabia, the Emirates, with the help of the United States and other Western powers, that have been selling billions of dollars of weapons, have been destroying the infrastructure of Yemen for almost five years now. Of course the Houthis have been trying to fight back, taking this conflict into Saudi Arabia. This is just the most devastating of the attacks. Maybe it was done just by these $15,000 drones, as the Houthis say. Maybe it was done with help from other countries. But this is to be expected.

But let's go back to the origin of this problem, which is the Saudis and the Emirates getting involved in the internal affairs of Yemen, and the U.S. giving them the green light and all the logistical support and the weapons to do that. What we have to do now is put up the pressure more on the U.S. to stop this support. We have had historic votes in Congress, including a War Powers Resolution that said the U.S. should not be supporting the Saudi-led war in Yemen, and it's been vetoed by Donald Trump. Now is the time to demand that an amendment that's put into the military funding act, known as the NDAA, the National Defense Authorization Act, stay in there. And we need to put pressure on the speaker, Nancy Pelosi, so that this becomes a top priority. We have to stop our support for the war in Yemen.

The other thing we have to recognize is that the conflict with Iran is totally manufactured by Donald Trump and that Congress must reiterate what's in the Constitution. He does not have the right to take military action against Iran. That is the right of the Congress. And certainly, Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia is not the commander-in-chief of the U.S. forces.

AMY GOODMAN: Peter Salisbury, you've suggested the real danger in this situation is that the U.S. sees Yemen and the Houthis as a kind of easy means to attack Iran. And explain what that means for the people of Yemen.

PETER SALISBURY: Sure, that's right. So, earlier this year, we published a fairly lengthy report on the dangers of Yemen becoming increasingly embroiled in tensions between the United States, Saudi Arabia, on one hand, and Iran, on the other. The Yemen conflict is resolvable through political means, through an imperfect solution, an imperfect deal of some kind. And what we said was, if the war is allowed to continue, if there is no diplomatic process to end the war, which involves Saudi Arabia and the U.S. speaking to the Houthis, the rebel group that hold the capital, then the big danger is that in fact we see Yemen becoming a trigger point for a wider regional war and being further embroiled in some form of confrontation, and the U.S. perhaps deciding, as has been suggested to us is a possibility, that it should support the Saudis more in their military campaign in Yemen to hurt the Houthis more, to hurt Iran by extension. And we see that as a really dangerous path to be going down.

AMY GOODMAN: And explain the devastating impact of the U.S.-armed Saudi and UAE though UAE says they're pulling out attacks on Yemen. What's happening on the ground, the number of deaths, the cholera and everything else?

PETER SALISBURY: I mean, the really simple answer is that you've got 18 million people, in a country of 26 to 30 million people, who don't get enough to eat on a day-to-day basis, 11 million people really on the brink of starvation and around half a million people literally starving, as a consequence of the war as a whole. You've got sort of people using the economy as a weapon of war. You're seeing all parties to the conflict bombing civilian areas, infrastructure being devastated. We're seeing a country which if you stop the war tomorrow, it's going to be hungry, it's going to be poor, and it's going to be devastated for some time to come.

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