What do we know?
- Well, we know that the Trump Administration has no credibility--it has lied about a great many things, so even if they come out with some evidence of either Iranian complicity (and Iran is almost certainly at least complicit) or Iran guilt, it will be easy for folks to dismiss these claims. After all, Trump is currently lying about saying that saying that he would meet the Iranians without preconditions.
- We know that observers have taken to seeing Trump as a paper tiger--that he makes threats that he will not back up. Which then encourages them to push harder and harder, expecting Trump to back down. And they will be right to do so until ... they are wrong and find that even paper tigers eventually push back. So, if Iran did take a risk, it might have been encouraged by Trump's previous bluffs and blustering.
- Saudi Arabia is a crappy friend of the US. Maybe the Trumps love the Saudis for their entangled financial ties, but Saudi Arabia has benefited far more from American help than vice versa. This, of course, is ironic, given Trump's criticism of NATO allies, as they have bled for the US. Have the Saudis? No, but the US has bled for them. And because of them. Oh, and another contrast: the US is not obligated to defend Saudi Arabia. There is no mutual defense treaty between the US and Saudi Arabia. The US has acted in Saudi Arabia's defense, most notably in 1990 when Saddam Hussein attacked Kuwait and threatened Saudi Arabia, but I can't find anything but an agreement to sell arms.
- John Bolton was not the only guy in the Trump Administration who sought a war with Iran. Pompeo is still around, and I am sure there are others.
People have been wondering how the Trump Administration will do once it faces a real crisis, one that it didn't make. Well, this is one that they only partly made, so, yeah, we are there now. And I am very, very worried. There are not too many good policy options, and I have confidence that Trump will pick a bad one AND will not do the necessary work to get allies and other countries to support the US course of action.
I wish we could expect cooler heads to prevail, but none of those are in government these days. So, what next? Damned if I know. Maybe the paper tiger will roar and then not bite, maybe Trump will overreact? Maybe the Saudis will push for caution? The key is the White House is dominated by the uncertainty engine in chief so no reason to be certain about any of this.