Donald Trump insisted that Saudi Arabia “fight their own wars” — or “pay us an absolute fortune to protect them.” But that was in 2014, when Barack Obama was president. On Sunday he said the U.S. is “locked and loaded,” waiting to “hear from the Kingdom” about who was responsible for the attack Saturday on Saudi oil facilities.
As it turns out, the U.S. didn’t wait for “the Kingdom” but instead informed the Saudis on Monday that Iran was responsible for the attack. But the Saudis said American officials failed to provide enough proof that Iran was responsible, The Wall Street Journal reported. Iran has denied responsibility. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said the attack was an act of self-defense by the Yemeni Houthi rebels in response to being bombed by the Saudis.
But Trump’s posturing has also triggered a flood of criticism, with Representative Tulsi Gabbard accusing the president of turning America into Saudi Arabia’s “bitch.” She accused Trump of waiting for orders from his “Saudi masters.”
Senator Mitt Romney said U.S. military action on behalf of the Saudis against Iran would be “a grave mistake.” And Senator Brian Schatz tweeted that there is “no imminent threat and the U.S. military is not authorised to retaliate on behalf of another country.”
Lawmakers reminded Trump that it’s the job of Congress whether or not to declare war. “Only Congress — not the president — can declare war,” Senator Bernie Sanders, a 2020 presidential candidate, tweeted Sunday. “And Congress will not give you the authority to start another disastrous war in the Middle East just because the brutal Saudi dictatorship told you to.”
Trump appeared to back off Monday from his locked-and-loaded pose. “Do I want war?” he said to reporters in the Oval Office. “I don’t want war with anybody.” But the president added: “We’re prepared more than anybody.” He also said that the Saudis are “going to have a lot of involvement in this if we decide to do something ... that includes payment.”
The attacks early Saturday on a massive oil field and refinery disrupted about 50% of Saudi oil output — 5% of the entire global supply.
For decades before Trump was president, he blasted Saudi Arabia for taking advantage of its relationship with America and once mocked Obama for bowing at a meeting with the Saudi king.
In office, Trump has been a constant supporter of the autocratic Saudi royal family, even after the CIA determined that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was “directly involved” in the assassination a year ago of Washington Post writer Jamal Khashoggi.