Despite the buildup of U.S. military presence in the Persian Gulf, Iran may “attack again,” the chief of the U.S. Central Command, General Kenneth McKenzie told Foreign Policy in an interview.
“I think the strike on Saudi Aramco in September is pretty indicative of a nation that is behaving irresponsibly,” Gen. McKenzie said. “My judgment is that it is very possible they will attack again.”
The top official was referring to the drone and missile attacks on a Saudi oil field and a processing plant that took almost 5.7 million bpd of production capacity offline. At the time, the Houthi rebels in Yemen claimed responsibility for the attacks but the United States and the Saudis both claimed that the missiles were launched from Iran, although the evidence presented did not convince everyone. Now, Foreign Policy has called the attacks “Iran-sponsored”—the Houthis enjoy Iran’s financial and political backing in the Yemen proxy war.
“I wouldn’t discount anything from Iran,” Gen. McKenzie also said in his interview with Foreign Policy. “When a nation behaves that irresponsibly, you have to be very cautious when you evaluate what they might do in the future.” He stopped short of adding any specific threats that Iran might make on the region.
The U.S. military presence in the Gulf was boosted earlier this year, after several attacks on tankers that, again, Washington blamed on Iran but Iran rejected any involvement.
Following the attacks, insurance rates for oil tankers carrying Middle Eastern oil through the Strait of Hormuz shot up, increasing shipping costs and swelling oil prices because of the heightened risk of passing through the Strait of Hormuz. The U.S. and the UK quickly made up a coalition to protect tankers in the Gulf. The coalition, dubbed Operation Sentinel, uses “elaborate overhead intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance architecture” to keep track of vessel movement in the Gulf.
“Since the [coalition] has begun over the last couple of months we have been able to move stuff through the Strait of Hormuz pretty much without interference,” Gen. McKenzie said.
By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com
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