There was a major attack on Saudi Arabian oil facilities over the weekend, and the Trump administration wasted little time implicating Iran in the violence. Officials in Tehran denied the allegations.
Did you happen to catch Donald Trump's tweet on the subject, published yesterday afternoon?
"Saudi Arabia oil supply was attacked. There is reason to believe that we know the culprit, are locked and loaded depending on verification, but are waiting to hear from the Kingdom as to who they believe was the cause of this attack, and under what terms we would proceed!"
As is generally the case, some caveats are in order. For example, the president's rhetoric is routinely meaningless and should never be taken at face value. For that matter, I'm sympathetic to those who note that it's difficult to learn detailed information from short online missives.
That said, Trump did raise a few eyebrows with this one, and given the possible stakes, it's tough to look past it as trivia. Indeed, the sitting American president made it seem as if he were awaiting instructions from Riyadh: the United States is "locked and loaded," and how we "proceed" will be shaped by what Saudi Arabia tells the Trump administration.
Hmm. I wonder what the Saudis will tell Trump.
This may prove to be the latest in a series of examples of the Republican simply thumping his chest to make himself feel better, but in the event that Trump is being serious, it's worth emphasizing the fact that the "terms" under which the United States uses force against a foreign foe are supposed to be shaped by Congress, not Saudi Arabia.
And the last time I checked, American lawmakers haven't authorized the use of force against Iran.
Trump added this morning, "We don't need Middle Eastern Oil & Gas ... but will help our Allies!" As Vox' Matt Yglesias joked soon after, "war for oil" is apparently being replaced with "war even though we don't need the oil."
Five years ago, Trump published a related tweet, telling the public, "Saudi Arabia should fight their own wars, which they won't, or pay us an absolute fortune to protect them and their great wealth-$ trillion!"
It's not unreasonable to wonder whether the Republican still believes this.