Although President Donald Trump is trying to avoid war with Iran, it seems as if Tehran is daring him to respond, “testing the Trump administration,” said Gerald Feierstein, a former U.S. Ambassador to Yemen.
He added that the United States continues to seek ways to get Iran “back to the negotiating table” as the President realizes the American people don’t want war.
Feierstein’s comments followed Saturday’s drone attacks on Saudi oil plants, destroying 5.7 million barrels of daily crude production, or 5 percent of the total daily crude oil production in the world. That is also half of what the Kingdom produces daily.
Such a disruption in oil production caused fears of decreased supply, immediately followed by a surge in prices.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo traveled to Saudi Arabia where he was to meet with Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman to discuss the attacks on Saudi Aramco, the Kingdom’s second-largest oilfield and the world’s largest crude oil processing facility.
Pompeo has accused Iran of the attack, further deteriorating relations between the two countries and prompting Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to say on national television that Tehran “will never talk to America.”
“Clearly, the Iranians look inclined to test the Trump administration, to call Donald Trump’s bluff, if you will, to see if he really has the will to really go all the way,” Feierstein told CNBC on Wednesday. “So far, their bets have paid off.”
Saudi pipelines have come under attack by Iranian-backed Houthi rebels multiple times in the past years, heightening tensions between Iran and the U.S., an ally of the Saudi kingdom.
The United States has also accused Tehran of recent attacks on oil tankers in the Strait of Hormuz, as well as of downing an American military drone.
“Whether you’re talking about the tanker attacks or previous pipeline attacks or now this, they continue to raise the ante, they raise the bar, almost daring Donald Trump to respond,” Feierstein added.
He noted, however, that neither the U.S. nor Saudi Arabia would want a military conflict that would completely take away the possibility of negotiations with Tehran and would likely provoke retaliation.