Trump and Tehran Shake Up the Middle East

Iran’s airstrike on Saudi oil sites exposed vulnerabilities around the region.

Comments: 196

  1. The question that occurred to me after the attack on Saudi oil facilities: could a swarm of kamikaze drones overwhelm the radar-based defenses of American ships in the Persian Gulf? No American naval vessel has been sunk by enemy action since the Korean War. If an aircraft carrier were sunk by anti-ship missiles, the psychological effect would be tantamount to that of the 9/11 attacks.

  2. @Matthew Hughes There's no doubt that an aircraft carrier could--with enough technological sophistication and enough effort--be sunk. The US would then lose one of its eleven most expensive military assets--and the lives of many men. Any hostile country that undertakes such a move would then have to deal with its the military consequences. I think the American response would be formidable.

  3. @Geoman It also depends if our carrier is sitting alone. I think ordinarily when a carrier goes out, it is accompanied other support craft, A carrier strike group[1] (CSG) is an operational formation of the United States Navy. It is composed of roughly 7,500 personnel, an aircraft carrier, at least one cruiser, a destroyer squadron of at least two destroyers or frigates,[2] and a carrier air wing of 65 to 70 aircraft. A carrier strike group also, on occasion, includes submarines, attached logistics ships and a supply ship. (Wiki)

  4. "Iran’s airstrike on Saudi oil sites exposed vulnerabilities around the region." As Cokie would say, "now it's out there", with no evidence or opposing views.

  5. So everyone is trying to reconnect with Iran? Sounds like the optimal outcome. Maybe if the USA would engage in some serious detente we can improve the situation for Israel before that erupts. Or we can just blame and punish Iran and be surprised when the inevitable happens.

  6. @Joe "Maybe if the USA would engage in some serious detente we can improve the situation for Israel before that erupts." You mean like President Obama's detente of negotiating an agreement with Iran - i.e. the nuclear deal, where Iran agreed to limit its sensitive nuclear activities & allow in international inspectors in return for the lifting of crippling economic sanctions? You meant the detente/agreement that was working before Donald Trump, with his "great brain" & "unmatched wisdom", scuttled it? You mean THAT detente?

  7. We cannot now directly control what any of the regional players do. But we can control our own house. The ways in which Trump is irresponsible and dangerous -- to us and our own national interests! -- are too numerous to mention. Happily, Trump's behavior has now undeniably crossed the line, and he can be removed from office--either by impeachment or at the ballot box. Since the number of Republican Senators willing to vote their conscience is far fewer than 20, our best hope is the ballot box. I only pray that voter apathy will subside enough to get the job done.

  8. After a lifetime of witnessing incessant turmoil in the middle east, I'm at the point where we should let Israel settle it. Look at the damage the US has inflicted by getting involved in that area of the world. If Iran wants to take on Israel, then Israel should respond in kind. And decisively. It just never ends.

  9. @cece Israel should stop hiding behind the skirts of the US. But launching a nuclear attack on another country would make Israel a pariah among the nations of the world.

  10. As good policy we must support real democracies and nations that respect human rights. This is why it is difficult to get excited about potential conflict between Iran and Israel. Or Saudi Arabia.

  11. Is Mr. Friedman suggesting that he wants the US back in the Middle East full time? This whole idea that Israel deserves to be protected as well as Saudi Arabia is old. If Iran takes over the entirety of the Middle East, which is not going to happen, what will happen next? Will Iran take over Greece, North Africa, Italy? What would the next step be? These are some questions the next US president and Congress should consider. Trump should not consider doing anything because he will just mess it up. He has already allowed Iran free reign.

  12. @Anthony Yes, but at least Mr. Trump didn't give Iran permission to develop atomic weaponry to put on perfectly capable Iranian missiles. We can tell Israel and Jordan and Egypt and Saudi Arabia to fight their own battles, but the US is still the world's superpower, and therefore has the obligation to keep freedom of the seas world wide. If we want to maintain military and economic supremacy on this planet, we need to confront threats from Iran in the Straits of Hormuz and China in the South China Sea. I understand the desire to not fight for decades in places that seem to get nowhere, but I'm not at all sure that retreating behind our oceans is an option.

  13. @Mary the US is still the world's superpower? Who'd a thunk? We are not the only country with nukes. And Iran took out a refinery with low flying drones. The meek shall inherit the Earth. Pride goeth before the fall.

  14. @Anthony Iran has not attacked any country across its borders in more than 150 years. They don't have a policy of waging aggressive war as we do. They have a policy of defending their nation. Perhaps our country and Israel and the Gulf States have forgotten how to make peace, and establish diplomatic relations so that Iran can be talked to daily, if necessary. Imagine US President and Secretary of State being able to meet with an Iranian ambassador when necessary in Washington. And further, if we would get on with it and put the carbon-based energy system behind us, our country would realize we don't need a presence in the Persian Gulf, and not do we need the persistent meddling with Iran's economy through dubiously legal sanctions.

  15. Well, there goes the theory that Trump is a militarist who will embroil us in foreign wars. By this point in his much more decorous presidency, W. Bush had attacked Iraq and proclaimed "Mission Accomplished!" Of course, he first got Congress on board (Hillary and Joe gave thumbs up to attacking Iraq). GWB even convinced a few pundits (including TLF) that we were doing the right thing, even if Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11 and had no WMDs, because we would bring peace and democracy to the Middle East. So much for elite theories. In this case, I'm content to let Saudi Arabia and Israel use the billions of dollars worth of weapons that we give/sell them every year to defend themselves from Iran. The sky is not falling. We are pulling US troops back a few miles so that Turkey has a buffer zone to insulate them from the Kurds, who helped with ISIS but also hate Turkey. Complicated, indeed.

  16. @Unconventional Liberal We are pulling US troops back a few miles so that Turkey has a buffer zone to insulate them from the Kurds, who helped with ISIS but also hate Turkey. What a nice dismissal of what will occur when the Turks attack the Kurds. Everything’s okay in my backyard, eh?

  17. The last time I heard anything about the number of Iranian scientific publications (that is, in recognized scientific journals, and with peer review) was in a UN Report on the State of the Islamic World. And they had one chemist, trained in America, who once published a respectable paper in Iran, got published, then jiggered a few numbers, and got republished, and then jiggered a few more numbers and got refused. I'm really dubious about any internet published scientific papers from Iran since then, and not convinced that they aren't just the best copiers of Western technology around. I also wonder about these huge numbers of college graduates cited in Iran (also other Muslim areas of the Middle East): are they all refugee rights lawyers and students of religion? There certainly aren't enough doctors, pharmacists, dentists, people who know how to put together and maintain a clean water system. This is an honest question: are you sure you're not being overly terrified by the heirs of the Persian Empire who can't put together a decently functioning country, but are convinced that they are the future of the region, particularly if they are more committed to violence than anyone willing to oppose them? I am reminded at the Japanese Admiral who said at Pearl Harbor: "I am afraid that we have woken the sleeping tiger". Fact is, if the West gets angry enough, Iran will be a parking lot in a matter of hours.

  18. @Mary if the West gets angry enough, Iran will be a parking lot in a matter of hours. So Afghanistan, Syria, and Iraq can verify that after how many trillions of dollars and lives destroyed?

  19. It never fails to amaze me how little Americans know about Iran.

  20. @Mary But you make the case for why wouldn't we want Iranians to be well trained and well educated? And who says they don't have learned societies with published research? Who were my best students in the 1970s at Berkeley in Physics and Engineering studying for advanced degrees? I wonder where they are now? If the USA were not so blind, the State Department would be giving student visas now to Iranians to bring them into a world that they can help build. But we forget. Stephen Miller is responsible for policies about immigrants and visas.

  21. If Israel engages Istanbul's F-16s to stop a genocide of Kurds in Syria, would America and Europe be obliged to come to the aid of their NATO ally - Turkey? If ever there were a time to entrust Stingers and TOW missiles (anti- aircraft and anti-tank) to anyone outside of NATO, that would be now: give the Kurds the means to defend themselves.

  22. @raphael colb Right on both realpolitik and moral grounds!

  23. I love how Friedman just casually drops the notion that Israel would retaliate against Hezbollah by indiscriminately bombing civilians in Lebanon. Friedman's apologia vis a vis military action by the United States and Israel, though unsurprising given his oeuvre, is both strategically ill-advised and morally myopic; it relies on a terribly unsophisticated and one sided view of the complicated geopolitics at play, which cannot be divorced from the ethical minefield upon which every actor treads. For a startling example, take the Dimona reactor mentioned by Friedman. A strike on the reactor would be an atrocity causing a horrific environmental and humanitarian disaster. However, Friedman fails to mention that it is also the site of Israeli nuclear weapons development. Israel possesses an arsenal of the most dangerous and revolting fruits of the human imagination; it is NOT an ethical or moral state, and any discussion of the politics of the region must address the virtues and vices of all of the regional actors. This does not permit a strike on the reactor, but it demonstrates that Israel is not an innocent actor caught between violent neighbors. Rather, it is an active participant in the violence that characterizes the Middle East, and we ought to be skeptical of anyone that omits mention of Israel's role in precipitating regional conflicts

  24. @selfloathing Israel has possessed nuclear weapons for at least 50 years and never used them. Not even in 1973 when it was surprise attacked in the Yom Kippur War. Joining the nuclear club perhaps ensured its survival.

  25. @Atllaw This is an enormously fallacious analysis. No country has used nuclear weapons since 1945, and yet reasonable people recognize that their mere existence is a threat to humankind. That is why we worry about nuclear proliferation and aim for reductions in the existing stockpiles of nuclear arms. Israel, though suffering heavy casualties, decisively defeated the Syrians and Egyptians in the Yom Kippur War and did not need the help of nukes to do it. Had they launched a nuclear strike, it would have had a high likelihood of spiraling into a nuclear confrontation between the US and the Soviet Union (both of whom were already on nuclear alert because of the conflict), thus ending civilization. Furthermore, their nuclear stockpile hasn't prevented war with the Syrians, Lebanese, and Iranian proxies in the decades since the Yom Kippur war (not to mention Scud missile strikes in '91) so I fail to see how they improve Israel's security situation. Finally, your comment ignores the point I made, which is that Israel is hardly an innocent actor and that Friedman's omission of its role in precipitating conflict in the region (not to mention Saudi Arabia's brutal campaign in Yemen) is irresponsible and paints an incomplete picture of the geopolitical context. Iran's is an odious regime, but so is Israel's and Saudi Arabia's.

  26. It's about time we admit that Iran is the big player in the Middle East. Trump and his pawns in the administration fail to recognize that in a game of Chess, the opposition gets the chance to make moves as well. Since having put Iran "on notice", Trump has conveyed well to its Arab partners and Israel that it has no applicable strategy to contain Iran, other than the impulsive sanctions. Iran is the big horse in the Middle East. Others are merely donkeys. Despite the many billions spent by Saudis on US defense purchases, the Houthis now living in 6th year of abject poverty, civil war, blockades, continue to pose existential threat to Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia is a hollow state. You take out the ruling family, the country crumbles. UAE knows well that should Iran be attacked, they will be the first ones to face the wrath of the Iranian might. Baharian, too, which boast 50%+ Shia population, its populace is waiting for liberation from its Sunni autocratic rule. You can be a big player in the neighborhood. But if the other party knows how to move strings better than you, doesn't matter how strong you are, you will not succeed. History has taught us that might is not always right. We, the U.S, should establish communication with Iran. Not to discuss restrictions or sanctions but rather to accept their heavy sized role in the middle east. Time to say our ungrateful allies Israel and Saudi Arabia goodbyes and acknowledge and accept Iran for its realities.

  27. @John Donald Trumps strategy consists of running his mouth and making threats based on who he talked to last or what was said on Fox. No thought beyond that. No worry about strategy because that requires information and thought. No worry about consequences because he has never had consequences for his actions. We are at the mercy of an undisciplined 5 year old and his behavior.

  28. Mr. Friedman (who rather recently waxed poetic about how MBS would spread democracy across the ME) is here, yet again, toeing the Saudi/Israeli line by warning of the perils of Iran if the US even considers removing some troops from the region. Mr. Friedman, do you really want us stationed there indefinitely? And how much good have our interventions done so far? You're worried about Iran? The Iraq war was the greatest thing that ever happened to Iran! Talk about expanding their influence. Perhaps it's time for us to step back a little.

  29. @Halboro Yes w edo want to be stationed there forever like Japan , Germany, Korea, etc. Would you rather fight here like 9/11.

  30. @Halboro Yes we are all tired of our military involvement in the middle east but GWB -Cheney couldn't leave well enough alone and embroiled us in an endless war with no winners. It stirred up a rat nest with Iran, ISIS, Syria, Yemen and destabilized the Middle East. We will not escape involvement here, you can smell it. Without at least a toe hold in Syria we will be solely on the outside looking in. Trump should have never reneged our our nuclear deal with Iran, his move was asinine.

  31. @bill walker You have forgotten 9/11. There was no fight. Stop the hysteria.

  32. Iran has a meddlesome policy and the US has no policy anyone can depend on, which makes meddlesome policy more dangerous. If a leader is recognized as crazy like a fox, he is to be weighed carefully. When he is widely suspected to be just crazy, he is always to be tested. That makes miscalculation always a factor and the uncertainties of all actions go up exponentially.

  33. Sobering thoughts to be sure , thank goodness there is such a calm, grounded ,and far seeing Administration in place here in the States. "Unmatched wisdom "even , and yes ,of course that was meant as dark sarcasm .

  34. Let’s hope everybody in the neighborhood stays cool. Get Saudi Arabia to keep talking to Iran. Then set up the stage for a false Trump victory and get those sanctions off Iran’s neck.

  35. When Trump, Bolton, and Pompeo were threatening Iran with war a couple months ago, it was clear they knew less about Iran’s history, religion, politics, and war capacity than Bush when he invaded Afghanistan. Iran has the highly motivated, battle-tested troops and allied militias to create the largest regional war with highest casualty rates since Korea. For the first time in history, we will witness high-tech asymmetric warfare, with Iran using coordinated swarm attacks of small, relatively low cost drones, cruise missiles, smart torpedoes, one-man submarines, cyberattacks, short range ballistic missiles, as well as low tech sea mines, rockets, and speedboats to block tankers from passing through the Strait of Hormuz, destroy Saudi and UAE oil production, spike oil prices, and cause a global recession. They can continue this dispersed warfare even if the U.S. and Israel bomb Iran. The Iranian people are suffering food and medicine shortages under U.S. sanctions, putting pressure on the hardline regime to either negotiate or fight. Iran has offered to make the nuclear deal permanent, with iron-clad inspections. No one, even Trump and Khamenei, wants war.

  36. Mr Friedman gives trxmp too much credit. He has shown over and over again that he is quixotic in the extreme and his pronouncements are as subject to change as are his dalliances. There's no calculating or recalculating. Witness the last two days re Turkey. His handlers may be putting some thought behind his positions, but he frequently ignores them. It's very hard to draw conclusions from what he is quoted here as saying since he always leaves himself an out and usually takes it, all at his whim.

  37. I, an older former Marine who three times served as an intelligence officer, still follow military matters. Many of those (including in the US government) who first described the precision missile strikes on the Saudi oil fields inaccurately underestimated what had happened, and even got wrong where the missiles had come from. Missiles fired in the past by Iran or by their allies seldom hit anywhere near any target, so we were used to being complacent. The Saudis saw nothing coming until the missiles hit, nor did we. And by now the Iranians have had time and opportunity to assess and correct for future strikes the unexpectedly few missiles that had little effect on target (some of which hit precisely but did not explode and so caused little damage). Definitely we should all be recalculating.

  38. @Marvant Duhon You are presuming sans evidence that Iran fired the cruise missiles. Also the attack occurred on a Friday evening, so the Saudi radar was likely unmanned. Furthermore, it's likely that whoever fired the missiles had a man/men on the inside to install homing beacons, which were only turned on say half an hour before the missiles hit. That's how specific parts of the facility were hit. Or some party with access to far more advanced weapons hit the oil processing plant(s) and made it look a like a strike with Iranian designed cruise missiles/drones. Submitted Oct 8th 5:34 PM

  39. Mr. Friedman neglected to mention a still more frightening possibility, namely that if Israel finds itself existentially threatened, they will undoubtedly consider a nuclear strike on Iran itself. Before that might occur, Israel would force the U.S. to face a Hobson's choice, to defend Israel or see the region descend into complete chaos.

  40. @Jeffrey Waingrow Trump always wanted to use our nukes so...

  41. @Jeffrey Waingrow: "Mr. Friedman neglected to mention a still more frightening possibility, namely that if Israel finds itself existentially threatened, they will undoubtedly consider a nuclear strike on Iran itself." But Iran isn't threatening the existence of Israel. You really need to watch more than FoxNews. Submitted Oct 8th 5:30 PM eastern

  42. @Yaj Maybe you've missed the threat leveled at Israel by their neighbours for the last 70 years to drive them all into the sea.

  43. Wait a minute, who concluded thoroughly that the strikes on Saudi facilities were the work of Iran? Does repetition create a truth? Surely NYT would like to cite its sources for the claim that Iran carried out the attack. Did you know the US has a history of subversion in the Middles East itself? When ousting Iran's democratic government led by Mohammed Mossadegh in 1953, the CIA printed pamphlets claiming Mossadegh was actually a communist. At the time, Iran was battling a communist insurgency in its north, so such propaganda maligned Mossadegh very effectively in the eyes of the populace.

  44. @Jack Maybe it was an Israeli operation disguised as an Iranian operation hoping the US would attack Iran.

  45. @Jack And then someone, Obama, tries rapprochement and who knows if it would work, but the traitorous Republicans, violating all precedent, try to embarrass Obama with that awful, Bobo, Bebot, bitibo, no Bibi, coming to our congress to lambast our president, while he angers everyone in the region. Two state? more settlements. Pax Americana? more weapons. Sorry there was a chance and Trump and the Republicans blew it. That place is a powder keg with nukes.

  46. @Jack The Houthis have openly admitted the attacks on Saudi refineries. They even produced evidence of how they had done it, and have threatened that they would repeat those attacks if Saudi bombing of Yemeni civilians do not stop. It is highly irresponsible of Thomas Friedman to so categorically blame Iran for the attacks in harmony with MBS and Bibi without producing the slightest evidence. Over 100,000 Yemenis including thousands of children have been killed, millions are on the verge of starvation, a whole country has been destroyed, and according to the UN the situation in Yemen is the worst humanitarian disaster and not a bleep from Friedman, but a few drone attacks on Saudi refiners which had no casualties and only cut some of Saudi revenue that goes to finance the brutal war launched by the Saudi butcher makes Friedman wax lyrical about peace and security in the Middle East and the need for Israel's total immunity to any attacks. This is truly grotesque.

  47. Ref the attack on Saudi refinery...The perceived wisdom around Asian Govt's security and media is that 'Bolton did it.' with all the associated reasoning as required.

  48. What are the chances taht Trump giving the Truks a green light against the Kurds came with an OK from Saudi Arabia?

  49. I do not think that Iran's involvement has been proved. Until it is, it is poor journalism and irresponsible to write as if there is clear evidence. The fact that the drone might be Iranian is not enough for if it were, western countries would be responsible for many acts where their weapons have been used.

  50. @Peter Schaeffer lol -like Mossad doesn't know what it's talking about

  51. @Peter Schaeffer This is exactly what I was thinking as I read the first part of this article. There is no proof that Iran led this attack and directed these weapons to their target. 2ndly, Friedman will never explain how Hezbollah became a fighting force to take on Israel. It happened because of the repeated incursions of Israel into Lebanon where Shiite farmers and shepherds took the brunt of these attacks. Then came the massive invasion that led Israel to drive its tanks all the way to Beirut pursuing Yasser Arafat's forces. At that point, Hezbollah became a fighting force of magnitude with the determination that never again would this occur. But we don't pay attention to the sources and causes of the problems in the Middle East. Once the hideous bombing and deaths of 220 US Marines occurred in 1983, it was clear no one asked questions in the Reagan White House and the pattern recurs. Why are we not looking at Israel's role in this conflict? Why are we seeking to support Saudi Arabia in threatening Iran with aggression--a conflict that would be over in hours without the US presence? Why cannot Israel live within its borders and arrive at a governance arrangement with the Palestinians? I don't presume to know what that arrangement would be. But there has been no one in a position of leadership for 20 years in Washington, D.C. that knows how to communicate to the Israelis we aren't going to supply them or fight for them.

  52. @Peter Schaeffer Thank you. I, too, found it beneath the dignity of NYTimes to allow such a unproven fact be stated as a fact. This is exactly how the we got onto our boats to Iraq 16 years ago. Many of us with one way tickets.

  53. Recalculating, recalculating indeed. The Kurds have been close allies of US in Iraq and Syria. Their abandonment will warn others from placing trust in the United States as they did.

  54. Oh yeah, whatever happened to "nothing is off the table" in response to the Iranian attack? Someone cleared the table?

  55. Are GOP senators reading this? Do they have any doubts where Trump’s loyalties lie? When the senate vote for removal occurs will it be fast and smart? Trump should be worried.

  56. The source of the evil is the Wahabis' Sunnis in Saudi Arabia. Where was the "West" when the Sunnis started to slaughter the Shiites in the southern part (Yemen) of the Arabian Peninsula? Put the blame where it belongs.

  57. @Hrayr Karagueuzian The source of evil is the terrorists’-enabling Iranian Regime. Where was the West when the Shiites started slaughtering the Sunnis in Syria? Put the blame where it belongs.

  58. @WestSider Nonsense. That war started when Assad used disproportionate deadly force on demonstrators. Although jihadis did coopt much of the resistance, the Free Syrian Army was built around Syrian army defectors. Iran went to Syria to preserve an Ala'wite govt. and build their landbridge to Lebanon.

  59. @Hrayr Karagueuzian The Wahhabis have proliferated jihadist violence training in many countries, financed by the Saudi government. This has led to much of the recent terrorism, including the 9/11 attacks, the Taliban, and Pakistan's increasing internal intolerance and lawlessness.

  60. Trump’s Mideast policy is “Speak loudly, sell weapons, and don’t carry a stick.” Allies are abandoned. The end result will not be pretty. And the next administration will not be able to fix it.

  61. Outside of his unholy alliance with the Saudis, PM Netanyahu has done little to develop alliances with his neighbors. He has pandered to extremists within the Israeli population, allowed settlements to flourish and has rendered the two state solution all but impossible. Mr. Friedman's solution is not to work with some of the more temperate actors in the region to restore some semblance of stability. His solution is not negotiations and compromise from all sides. His solution is to ramp up American military presence. Change nothing else. We should continue to enable and excuse Israeli settlements and Saudi genocide, in Yemen. After all, our military will be there to clean up the inevitable mess. It is rather like insisting on rubbing poison ivy on one's arm before amputating the limb to treat the eventual rash.

  62. You hit the nail on the head. Trump is lighting the fuse and doesnt even know it because he is fully ignorant of where we are and how we got here.

  63. I do disagree with the title of the column that Trump and Tehran shake up the Middle East. Aside from past colonial interventions of the West in this area, including the toppling of democratically elected Mossadegh in Iran by the CIA or the war against Iraq based on a lie, I consider the close cooperation of the US with Saudi Arabia, both in Syria and Jemen, the most catastrophic energy of our time in the Middle East. To speak of an US betrayal of the Kurds in Syria is wrong in itself because it is simply against international law that the US is acting militarily in a sovereign foreign country without the consent of the respective government. I am also surprised that Friedman claims to know that it was the Iranian airforce that launched drones and cruise missiles against Saudi Arabia. He is describing the whole scenario of the Middle East in black and white terms, bad Iran, good Saudia Arabia. And the most absurd thing in my opinion is that Trump whom I consider to be a terrible American president has strangely enough at least one advantage: in contrast to other US presidents he has not yet started a fullblown war.

  64. @C.O. "Not yet" is the operative phrase, it might cost him money.

  65. From a Eurasian perspective it seems that a key to the Mid East is a functioning Iraq, which stands between, or among, Sunni and Shiite interests. Sectarianism may not be the whole story, but is certainly an important cultural and religious cause of Mid East conflict. During the Iraq War I always thought Israel and the NeoCons made a terrible strategic mistake in failing to support the economic development of Iraq, which with a strong economy of its own, and a fledgling democracy, would have had a beneficial impact on the region. Iraq is the lost key.

  66. @Bob Fonow Iraq is now essentially Iran thanks to U.S. meddling. Also, wait for the Kurds in the north of Iraq to spit off taking their oilfields with them. And, yes, Russia will be closely involved...

  67. Mr.Friedman, you speak convincingly of the explosive Middle East and the challenges for the players.Trump has seen the problems and decided to throw his lot in with Erdogan and Turkey and pull,our troops out.Who knows what our Secretary of State is doing besides traveling around Europe looking for support for conspiracy theories that justify Trump’s feverish push to delegitimize the facts of Russia’s interference in the 2016 election.Everyone should remember that one of Trump’ s brags is that “ we” wiped out Isis.The Kurds with our backing contained Isis.He will never tell the truth about the Kurds-that is why everyone is up in arms because he has cynically abandoned them to the “ tender mercies” of the Turks and Russians.

  68. Iran has no modern jet fighters and its only has low cost air attack weapons such as cruise missiles and drones. Saudi spends five times as much on defense as Iran and it has several hundred F-15s and Eurofighter jets and many Patriot missile defense systems. Saudi could not prevent Iran severely damaging its oil industry several weeks ago. Iran is clearly the dominant military power in the Gulf. Without a massive number of U.S. forces to support Saudi Arabia, it can be defeated by Iran in the same way that Kuwait was defeated by Iraq in 1991. If an Iran - Saudi war happens, Netanyahu will get involved somehow if he is still the Israeli prime minister.

  69. @Frank Hynd Your right. The Saudis can’t figure out how to use all those fancy war toys we sold them. They rent their fighter jet pilots from Pakistan.

  70. @Frank Hynd To put it politely, the Saudis would have trouble finding their own you know whats without western military advisers.

  71. Thank Bush, Cheney and the band of neocons for destroying the main buffer between Iran and the Sunni Arabs with the Iraq invasion of 2003, a military incursion ("accomplished"?) that Mr. Friedman supported. As bad as Saddam Hussein was, he at least produced a degree of stability that helped contain Iran to the east and the Sunnis to his west. Now that we have unleashed the whirlwind so to speak and Trump has sabotaged any attempt at détente with Iran by abrogating the nuclear deal, which could have provided an opening for diplomacy, it is too late to try to put the genie back into the bottle(lol). At the risk of appearing cynical; Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria; when has any U.S. military middle eastern intervention resulted in a successful out come? At least Trump, like a broken clock, is right sometime.

  72. Donald Trump's endemic policy ignorance is a metaphorical match in a region crammed with explosives. Implicit in Tom Friedman's column is the incredible stupidity of the Trump administration's decision to withhdraw from the JCPOA, when Iran had met all the protocols. The reimposition of sanctions has severely damaged the Iranian economy, increased the sense of desperation in Tehran, and empowered the hardliners. The attack on Saudi Arabia and the increased chance of war in the Middle East, can be linked to the sheer idiocy of Trump's decision to withdraw from the JCPOA.

  73. @Don Shipp. Let us not forget that he did not pull out to further some strategic advantage for the U.S. He pulled out, as he does everything else not purely for his private advantage, to put a finger in Obama's eye. The JCPOA was carefully constructed with the Europeans to avoid the kind of explosion we now see.

  74. @Regulareater Trump’s father should have pulled out.

  75. @Steven Well said.

  76. With friends like Saudi Arabia and Israel,who needs enemies? Neither country has shown any interest in finding common ground in the Middle East. Each has only cared about their selfish interests. Yet we continue to arm and economically support both. We have simply allowed this nation to be used for their gains.

  77. The political dysfunction in Washington has left the US military crippled. Deep partisan political division means the US is in no position to fight a major war right now. However, the non-response to the attack on an important US ally is going to have bad long term consequences. It raises serious concerns about the reliability of the US as an ally. And the Iranian provocations are not going to stop. Appeasement didn't work with the Nazis and it is not going to work with Iran. If the Iranians can mass produce their new cruise missile then they are going to have a very powerful capability. The ability to strike targets with 3 foot accuracy could cause havoc throughout the Middle East. These missiles are not unstoppable. They fly low and hide behind the hills so air defenses can't detect them until it is too late. If the Saudis had radar planes like AWACS in the air they would have been able to detect the incoming missiles and scramble fighters to intercept. However, it is expensive to keep planes airborne 24/7. A major war with Iran is starting to look inevitable. This was a fairly predictable consequence of tearing up the Iran nuclear deal. The Republican party is directly to blame for that.

  78. At 82, and well “beyond it”, I have long appreciated Thomas Friedman’s national and international perspective and presentation. While I’ll leave any attempt at interpretation of Friedman’s article today to better minds, I wish only to comment, from a personal bias, on the active presence in the title and content...of our “President” Donald Trump. (Maybe, more so, I should say that my concern is that Trump is present and allowed to be present and in effect, at all, in our National and International daily Scene.). I am, as a long- retired Licensed Family Therapist and Protestant Pastor, troubled that we, the People, are governed by a man who has blatantly presented himself as a free-floating chronic liar and one who does Anything simply to “Win”. I believe Donald Trump actively and constantly fulfills the Symptom list of a Sociopathic Personality Disorder. Occasionally, a Commenter will use that term and once David Brooks called Trump a “Sociopath” on PBS. In my life’s Work, I counseled a few Sociopaths. “President” Trump is beyond Treatment; we, the People, seem to be in Need of it.

  79. The USA should let Israel fight their wars. As for Saudi Arabia I will celebrate in the streets when the place is in flames and the monarchy is being hunted by the populace. They will be replaced with a Sunni religious government even worse than Iran. And I am fine with that too!

  80. Doomsday Clock at 1 minute to Midnight?

  81. "Iran’s is an awful regime. The ruling clerics have deprived at least two generations of young Iranians the freedom and tools to realize their full potential..." Or, fill in the blanks: "(Saudi Arabia, Syria, Egypt, Iraq, UAE) is an awful regime. The (despotic oil sheiks, corrupt oligarchs, military dictators) have deprived at least two generations of young (etc, etc.) the freedom and tools to realize their full potential..." If we are honest (and we are not), there is no intellectually defensible reason to call out the Iranians as being morally worse than their competitors. It's a rough neighborhood. The Iranian leaders are not more corrupt and vicious than the Saudis. The difference is that we long ago befriended the Saudis in exchange for their oil and lucrative military contracts, while the Iranians threw out our puppet, the beloved Shah, and never forgave us for imposing him on them. US policy in the Middle East has never been driven by anything more glorious than our official desire for resources, wealth and power. It's time to stop pretending otherwise. Trump's impetuous withdrawal from the Iran nuclear pact and imposition of sanctions were purely designed to embarrass Obama. Trump is fond of Erdogan because Turkey let him build a nice hotel there; he isn't quite sure exactly who the Kurds are. Somebody told Trump that ISIS is no longer a problem, and he's sticking with that. Bibi cynically hitched his wagon to Trump's and now will pay the price. Surprise!

  82. Middle east as usual, except 1990's. Why 1990's During 1990's old actor's of politics in Middle east , has already been fight decades long futile wars , never ending conflicts. Like Arafat, and Israeli politicians and high ranking army. inching towards some sort of peace, Except Iran proxies but then their voices somehow subdued. Then New actors came, in to the stage, Rabin and Israeli PM assassinated ( unheard of, impossible happened) following things started deteriorated steadily. Voila we are here, pre 1967 or 1973 tension high , one minute away from war situation. then Israel won the war but never won peace, Today Israel will won against Iran but Israel and its advanced status is extremely vulnerable to anything which previously tolerated. In short , We are at square one. Let start, if you don't fed up already.

  83. Thomas Friedman (prime cheerleader for the disastrous war in Iraq) has now become very concerned about stability in the middle east, implying that America must do something to make things better. I would respectfully ask Mr. Friedman (or anybody else) to articulate exactly how US involvement in the middle east over the past 40+ years has helped expand democracy, promote peace, or improved the lives of those living there. Please forgive me if it is not immediately apparent.

  84. Well Iran just let the world know its current capabilities. Noted. Can someone explain to me, however, why we shouldn't thank Iran for an action worthy of being considered a response to the murder of a US journalist? Iran may be a despotic theocracy with a despicable foreign policy, but I never cared much for the "Kingdom" of Saudi Arabia. All those princes, Pshaw. The only real Prince in the world died in the US in 2016, and his music will live forever.

  85. Excellent piece on the complexity of the situation. Meanwhile, while our president is engaged in a game of checkers with his ultimate goal is to say “King Me”, the rest of the world is playing a complicated game of chess of whichTrump has no understanding.

  86. In the immortal words of Martin Luther King, Jr. “Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power. We have guided missiles and misguided men.”

  87. We sold the Saudis billions in defense supplies - Iran went through it with low priced drones at a fraction of the cost. They used their brains and now people have to talk. A good thing. It's developing into a "mutually assured destruction" situation(MAD), like we have with Russsia. The Saudi prince got caught with his hands in his robe.

  88. I'm a bit confused as to when it became official that Iran directly launched the attack and not the Houthis? Is that the official account now of what happened or is this hearsay?

  89. Well, if GWB hadn't created the Iraq situation we might just be better off. That cascade has led to the disaster that is the Middle East. Trump and Netanyahu certainly are icing on the cake.

  90. As one expects from Friedman, there isn’t a word about the US supported Saudi war on Yemen. A fairly typical example of murderous American meddling in the Mideast, something that began under Obama because our meddling has generally been a bipartisan affair. If the attack on the Saudi oil installation leads them to pull back from their genocidal war and leads to peace talks with Iran, that would be a good thing.

  91. I have no understanding of why Friedman believes Iran attacked Saudi oilfields. Canada is at war with the Saudis and our oilpatch needs $100 a barrel oil. We are sneaky and cannot be trusted and we have the technology we steal from Saudi's most reliable ally. Marie L. Yovanovitch was born in Montreal where we are plotting the overthrow of America's legitimately elected Sovereign President. While you build your wall on your southern frontier we are sneaking across your northern frontier by the millions. Meanwhile millions of Americans look to Canada to rescue them from your remarkable and brilliant leadership. As we welcome in the 21st century we are hoping to prevent America's return to the 20th century when you were great and we were the frozen north.

  92. I usually agree with Tom Friedman's p.o.v., but not this time. The Saudis and their Sunni Arab Sheikdom allies have been committing genocide against Shi'ite Houthis in Yemen and they are not friends of the U.S. They smile and take our money and weapons. Behind closed doors they wish us death, so let them deal with Iran and the consequences of their actions. Not one American soldier should die for the repressive Saudi monarchy.

  93. I still have not seen a single report describing any injuries or fatalities for this so-called strike from Iran. Was it possible the entire work force was at lunch? I propose that it was a strike set up to frame Iran complete with mock confessions from the Houthis.

  94. @Richard Savoie To me, the curious aspect to these missile strikes, no matter who launched them, was the low level of explosive damage: pinpoint accuracy but they only punched relatively small holes in some metal tanks? Not exactly Shock and Awe.

  95. These circumstances call for leadership like that of Harry Truman, John F Kennedy, Theodore Roosevelt and Barack Obama. The people who thought enough about their obligation to the world and to their country elected them to office by voting. What will it take to get a voter turnout of more than 50% of those eligible? Or we betraying ourselves out of habit and complacency? I fear for the world and for our country.

  96. And if anyone believes that this administration has gamed out these scenarios and recalculations so as to develop some hint of what's about to happen, they need to have their head examined. The POTUS is once again taking a huge risk with other people's lives and livelihoods. Were I advising the Kurds I might suggest that they release all ISIS prisoners and prepare to battle Turkey. Take a page out of Trump's own playbook, sow mayhem and hope for the best.

  97. If anyone thinks that if Iran’s proxies target Israel with a large missile attack, that Israel will not retaliate directly against Tehran using their nuclear weapons and will not turn Southern Lebanon into a wasteland, then I have a very nice bridge between Manhattan and Brooklyn to sell to them. If Iran tries this gambit with Israel then the Israeli government will have no choice but to protect its people with the most powerful weapons at its disposal and they will not give any warning or seek a diplomatic solution. They may decide to incinerate Tehran only and then wait to see what happens, but more likely there will be immediate nuclear strikes on Tehran and on a score of military targets. Just saying!

  98. President Trump is following the right policy vis a vis Iran: Maximum pressure without useless pin prick bombing. Unfortunately visceral hatred of the president has led many not see obvious facts: Tehran is an expansionist power and must be contained, that means that the Obama deal was fatally flawed as it left Tehran with total freedom to expand its missile programme, which was Tehran's main intention anyway. How can the president be blamed for telling the Saudis that they must do the heavy lifting in defending their own interests?

  99. “Every time Tel Aviv is hit by your proxies, we will hit Tehran. You will not sit out this war. And you will not out-crazy us.” And make no mistake about it -What they cannot pronounce is: "And if push comes to shove a ten megaton nuke will end all our existential problems with you once and for ALL! Inshalla

  100. @dave a perfect incentive for Iran to"go nuclear."

  101. No, Tom, the mideast is not calm, it's a powderkeg you don't understand. Most countries are on the verge of civil war, tamped down by dictators, you know how that ends. You advocated invading Iraq, you and neocons would love to invade Iran, easy to overthrow their hated regime, right? Why did Saudi citizens kill thousands of Americans (not Canadians, Swiss, Swedes..?) wasn't it American troops in the mideast you'r so hot to trot over there? And if we protect Saudi Arabia, isn't the moral hazard is they can do anything they want because big brothers behind them?

  102. Where is proof that Iran fired those drones and missiles? Sounds to me like another aluminum tubes story from the New York Times.

  103. Still think the Iran nuclear deal was a good deal for the US, Tom?

  104. Obviously, we do not possess “ great and unmatched wisdom “. And presumably, neither of us are megalomaniac, sociopathic, delusional fools, surrounded by lackeys and professional boot lickers. What’s the WORST that could happen ? Well, does anyone in the Middle East possess Nuclear Weapons, and the will and desperation to actually USE them ??? THIS is what happens when stupid people Vote, and others stay Home. 2020: VOTE. NO EXCUSES.

  105. @Phyliss Dalmatian this is the smartest thing I’ve read including the column.

  106. @DP Thanks. And Cheers.

  107. Israel will bomb Iran with nuclear weapons?

  108. Doesn’t it all come down to antiquated religious conflicts stemming from in best light, two thousand to thirteen hundred years ago? When, if ever, will we learn to fight the existential threat that exists now as a planet, climate change? After all your extraordinary experiences and knowledge, Mr. Friedman, do you have any insight into why we are mired in religious battles two millennia old and not for our survival as a planet here and now. Always, thanks for your amazing reports that no one else seems to ever relate to us. Why is that? Shouldn’t this be as important as our village idiot that nothing seems to stop?

  109. @ElleJ In answer to your first sentence question: no.

  110. The Saudis finally got taught a lesson for their inhumane butchering of journalist, Jamal Khashoggi - by the Iranians. Be careful if you do bad things. You just never know when and from where your comeuppance is going to come.

  111. Really not enough here to definitively conclude that Iran did the oil field attacks. Given NYT's role in Iraq War misinformation, I wish they would demand more scrutiny from their writers than this

  112. It’s amazing how Friedman repeats CIA talking points without any proof. Where’s the evidence that Iran struck Saudi oil fields? Apparently Friedman doesn’t see the need for evidence.

  113. @Ken He is one of the Players in the equation of the middle east through Journalism, after all, he has a point of view that shifts from time to time that influences a lot of people, and has friends in higher places in all those countries.

  114. 'The first thing you do, kill all of the laywers' Somebody said that once. We seem to be there. I have nothing more to say. The US has ended.

  115. "Here’s the background: In the early hours of Sept. 14, the Iranian Air Force launched roughly 20 drones and cruise missiles at one of Saudi Arabia’s most important oil fields and processing facilities. " Iran did this? We've seen no evidence to support this claim Mr Friedman Iraq Invasion Supporter. We've seen 2 weeks of claims. Submitted Oct 8th 5:27 PM eastern

  116. Kick the hornet nest just to see what happens. A good basis for superpower foreign policy.

  117. I wonder what Trump in his great and unmatched wisdom plans on doing if Iran and Israel go to war.

  118. @Steve Trumps so smart he’ll buy up radiated land in both Israel and Iran for glow in the dark Trump Towers. The thing that should scare the pants off everyone is Trump when we have a crisis.

  119. It’s all about Israel for Friedman. Maybe Iran is not pleased that a puny little state like Israel bombs Lebanon, Iraq, Syria and the Iranian homeland with impunity and has a long standing policy of promoting chaos and disorder in the ME. Iran is a major player in that region and it is understandable that it punches back after repeated threats and attacks by Israel and its American “proxy”.

  120. @RL Groves Israel is hardly a "puny little state." Little, yes, puny, no. The day Iran choses to begin a second holocaust of the Jewish people by exterminating Israel, is the day Iran is itself destroyed. And, the fanatical Iranian mullahs will have deserved it.

  121. @Jim Smith I wonder if you had the choice, would you allign with USA or Israel? Clearly your only purpose here is to cloud all criticism of Israel. All your comments here are critical of any Israel-critique!

  122. The Republicans are running wild the facts leads to the White House Pres. Donald Trump picked up the phone to Ukrainian President to use political dirt on vice president Joe Biden and his son. It's time to act to impeach Pres. Donald Trump from office. We public and the House and Senate has said this is not impeachable. Please read the law of the land it is impeachable and offensive to the American people. Republican Party and GOP have gone rogue against the American people. Is time for the Patriots to come out from the mountains the valleys in the hills of America and protests and remove the GOP Republicans from office they lied to the American people that they were going to serve and protect the Constitution of the United States the party of law and order the GOP are aiding and abetting a criminal president of United States Pres. Donald Trump. Already this weekend after President Donald Trump talk to the president of Turkey their moving their forces in to slaughter the Kurds they serve with our American boys in the middle east to wipe out Muslim this and this is a things will giving them sleep well are Republican officeholders maybe you can sleep tonight as woman and children are being slaughter on the border of Syria what hypocrisy Republicans.

  123. Partly true, mostly a dooms day fabrication. There is a theory floating around that Israel is running out of time while the Crazy is in the White House and is running out of options to get the Crazy invade Iran. As a last failed attempt, Israel hit Saudi oil fields so that Saudi and the US would fight Iran on behalf of Israel. Mr Friedman, you stopped making sense after you staunchly supported the Iraq invasion by W.

  124. There is no proof that Iran is responsible for the attack, and the Israelis are not to be trusted. They've dragged us into enough already! Israel can carpet bomb all it wants, as long as it also cleans up its own mess. This is their neighborhood, not ours. What have they done for us lately, other than continue to cash checks for their welfare state? As far as Saudi Arabis is concerned, Friedman should re-read his own gushing columns on MBS, then take a break from the Mideast and write about something else.

  125. It’s time for Israel to start discussing its own MAD policy. Ambiguity is passé.

  126. The Middle East , the graveyard of empires .

  127. What's the bottom line here? Cheap, accurate weapons are now available to everyone, the cost of war has been shifted to the defenders, the cost to the attackers is low. Everyone should now be talking to everyone else, they need to. Iran isn't going away, it was always the biggest player in the middle east, even in Roman times. Mr. Trump understands that in the end we want to make our arrangements with Iran, not Israel, or Saudi Arabia. We also don't need the Saudis, we have our own oil, so our strategic interest there is smaller now than at any time since WWII. Everyone should be recalculating. Even if Mr. Trump strikes some as a madman he is in fact an arch-realist. Reality is changing fast in the middle east; Mr. Trump is helping it along. Want to know why Mr. Trump is a popular president? Because he isn't bothering to play by the old, no longer applicable, rules. He's a man of present reality, not past, as are his political opponents and critics.

  128. @Ronald B. Duke I completely agree that we need to engage seriously with Iran, and we, as Americans, need to acknowledge the role we played in debasing our relationship with them. Where we disagree, though, is with your apparent assumption that Trump is a strategic genius. I appreciate that he’s not by inclination a warmonger, but when he gets something right it’s more like a stopped clock than the product of a keen intellect.

  129. I am an old city boy who agreed with Obama’s Iranian Nuke Deal and ‘TPP’ Deals specifically because the foes whose behaviors we wanted changed, attempted without diplomatic and economic dexterity, can create significant blowbacks to USA In the case of ‘TPP’ our debt laden economy and phantom wealth could not force China to do what’s in our interests-by ourselves. The proof of failure is how it’s going now. And conversely with Iran our overwhelming total powers versus theirs cannot take them down without causing catastrophic injury to many nations on our side. And like China would include worlds financial structure. As we see Iran and China, although suffering, are proving why President Obama made his choices. With attacks on Saudi refinery’s Iran or proxies showed how quickly it’s neighbors would be back on Camels than driving Sports Cars. But Trump’s bombastic legions innately believe force will overcome the ‘thing’ that only realism can provides winning hands for everyone. Thus Trump’s fantastical goals are expediting the unmaking of America‘s greatness.

  130. I've been on vacation. When did Iran become 100% responsible for bombing the Saudi oil facility. It is now presented as a certainty in the news. What happened while I was away?

  131. A major lesson to be taken from this fine discussion is that our nuclear agreement with Iran accomplished far less in promoting Middle East peace than many claimed. Precision conventional weapons have always been more effective tools of war than nuclear bombs that threaten but are effectively unusable.

  132. @michjas - You are absolute right. Having nuclear power means you a subject to blackmail as was pointed out. Even’s conclusion: Operations at Israel’s “Dimona nuclear reactor should be halted. It has now been shown to be vulnerable, and the harm it could cause would likely exceed its benefits.” Can you imagine nuclear accident in Israel like Chernobyl or the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster in Japan.

  133. @michjas A war using precision conventional weapons greatly favors Iran, which is 80 times the size of Israel and has 10 times the population. This 21st century form of asymmetrical warfare greatly favors the attacker over the defender. Israel will be decapitated if Iran and its proxies can successfully land 200 precision missiles at strategic targets. Given Iran's land mass, Israel would need to strike it with 16,000 missiles to have a similar impact. This means that an Israeli nuclear strike against iran is very much in the cards, and yet another reasons that the US will become militarily involved, no matter who is the President (even Elizabeth Warren).

  134. Here's a suggestion as to why Trump has abandoned the Kurds. Russia told him to do it. Russia's war in Syria was meant to drive refugees into Europe to create chaos. It worked. It has wound down. This will ramp the refugee situation back up.

  135. @Alan very perceptive about the refugee chaos. I didn't think of that. But you can bet last dollar Putin told him to do it. That much was very obvious to me. Hence the Republican shrieking.

  136. Where did the Iranians get the advanced technology to build the drones? Is China a strong possibility?

  137. @Sean - Actually, you don't have to look too far to find out where the Iranians are getting their technology. I did some googling after the bombing on the Saudi oil field. The Iranians already had a "drone" fleet. Years ago, one of our drones that was being used in Afghanistan landed in Iran. So the Iranians just copied that as a head start. When you factor in that there is more computer power in a current day cellphone than what existed on the Apollo 11 space capsule and lunar module you can get an idea on how far technology has advanced. We have corporate America that is launching satellites into outer space. Pretty soon your children will be able to launch a rocket into outer space from your backyard. Not quite, but you get the picture. Google "guidance systems". I thought you could "jam" the GPS but they have other guidance systems that don't rely on Google Maps (just a joke). Designs for the V-2 rocket that the Germans used in WWII are probably on the web. It is just a question of making improvements. And you probably have a lot of smart, smart engineers in the former Soviet Union who are will to work from home for a little extra cash. They are as equal qualified as our Boeing engineers. Yes, it is a can of worms.

  138. Defending oneself against such attacks may be as much of a matter of infrastructure design as it is one of air defense. A single massive complex sending oil into a pipeline, or a single giant nuclear plant, are extremely vulnerable, smaller, dispersed facilities and moving oil by rail, or, even better, road could limit the damage from any one strike and make each damaged target easier to repair, replace and live without. All countries should be factoring this in to what were once purely economic decisions because of the risk of terrorism over the several decades any one facility or system has. In an especially volatile region doing so may be necessary to preserve one's sovereignty.

  139. Nobody wants war between Iran and Israel. The Iranians don’t want it, the Israelis don’t want it. The Iranians hitting Saudi oil, had a very legitimate reason. The US sanctions are strangulating the Iranian economy cutting it of its oil revenue. Iran needed (needs) to retaliate. It also needed to send a message to its neighbours: "you won’t let us sell oil? No one gets to sell oil then". I think it makes total sense. The sanctions and the US leaving the nuclear deal are the main issues causing instability. In the long run, the Islamic government in Iran will adapt to sanctions the same way bacteria adapt to antibiotics. And then you’ll have a superbug on your hands you won’t even know what to do with it. Time for America to learn not to keep repeating past mistakes. Normalise economic ties with Iran and peace will ensue.

  140. @FK Well stated. Trump is the cause of these recent instabilities by having deliberately knocked out the stabilizer. I'm not referring to the longer-standing instabilities, which the Iran nuclear agreement was not designed to address, but to the demolition of the nuclear agreement and the unilateral American embargo imposed by Trump for no discernable reason.

  141. @FK "Normalise economic ties with Iran and peace will ensue" I'm not so sure. Friedman's right: the Iranian regime needs conflict or the threat of it to remain in power - also an internal fear apparatus. When economies start improving, the masses start gaining influence, they start seeing possibilities for their own prosperity and power. This would be a threat to the current regime. In this respect, I think the sanctions work well for them.

  142. @FK how can America not repeat the same mistakes? Every four years a newbie and bunch of inexperienced people take over the government. All eager to repeat past mistakes by trying out their own solutions. There’s no continuity of a sound strategy.

  143. Unfortunately, Mr Thomas Friedman lost all his credibility a few years ago when he openly advocated for and espoused the virtues and liberal ideas of MBS... Saudi Arabia’s Prince Mohammad Bin Salman; who has since acted nothing like a butcher, and been responsible for the deaths of Washington Post Journalist Jamal Kashoggi and tens of thousands of Yemeni civilians. Let’s be frank here; Thomas Friedman was incentivized by the Saudis then, and he probably is now as well. Why should we believe anything he writes as anything but a mouth piece and PR agent for MBS????

  144. And we thought the Persians could not read nor write. A true shock to our sensibilities.

  145. The Donald's got form as a fickle romantic and bromantic partner. What's outrageous about those with the capacity to defend themselves defending themselves anyway? I'm thinking more of the plucky Kurds at this time.

  146. Wait... what real proof exists that the Iranians bonged the oil fields? None.

  147. "in response to any missile attacks, Israel will carpet bomb neighborhoods in Lebanon where Hezbollah’s families live" How is it so easy to use this ugly, genocidal language? Also, if Friedman thinks it's ludicrous that Yemen launched the drones and not Iran, he needs to check a map.

  148. @Vive la resistance It's not genocidal, it is self-defense. It is Iran and Hezbollah who would be responsible for resulting genocide by hiding missiles in homes and schools.

  149. "The Gulf Arabs can and will find a way to buy off the Iranians. Israel can’t. Israel has a real Iran problem. Beware." If Israel grants Palestinians their freedom they can normalize relations with all their Arab neighbors. That way they won't feel so vulnerable from Iran.

  150. Ditching the 2015 Obama/US/European accord doesn't look too smart at this point. Rather than bringing Iran to its knees economically, it motivated Iran's government, army and Republican Guard into a lock-step military march that President Trump never imagined and has no idea how to handle. The U.S. imports about 500,000 barrels of oil per day from Saudi Arabia, a quantity that could threaten national security if compromised, yet President Trump didn't respond and has not mentioned it since the brazen attack. Israel is on needles, the Saudis are in disbelief, the region is destabilized, the U.S. seems paralyzed and Iran is emboldened. What a remarkable win for Tehran. The opposition never took the field. It seems to me American foreign policy can afford some misguided fender-benders in Europe, but the Middle-East is the wild-west and Iran is thumping its chest saying there's a new sheriff in town.

  151. @Ralph braseth So you think it would've been better to give the Iranians a full decade to conventionally arm themselves, along with building what would be, after 10 years, a fully internationally legitimate nuclear arsenal?! At least Israel will be facing off against a conventionally-armed Iran. An Iran with nukes is beyond the pale.

  152. @JOHNNY CANUCK It postponed everything by 10 years. Perhaps it could've been extended another 10 years if Iranian economy had been doing well. Right now, that has gone away so of course Iran is going to do what the worst instincts are, just like the US right wing is lashing out against its death. Unless Iran is modernised and becomes a proper democracy (as should Israel for that matter, though it is closer), there's no solution here. The 10 years is time to accomplish that. Regime change needs to come via Iranian youth. The US started this mess in 1950s. So what goes around comes around.

  153. @JOHNNY CANUCK JCPOA is an act of the Security Council guaranteed by the five permanent members plus the EU. Central to JCPOA is the most intrusive inspections regime in the history of the IAEA. Iranian president Rouhani even agreed to a more intrusive inspections regime that was anticipate later within JCPOA. The CIA confirmed Iran's full compliance with JCPOA to the Senate Intelligence Committee in late January 2019. Iran has no nuclear weapons development activities. With the full backing of Russia, China, the EU and the U.S. there is no possibility of Iran developing nuclear weapons. Resolution of the missile threat is a far more complicated problem, but it cannot be addressed as long as the U.S. is not abiding by the JCPOA. Resolution of the missile threat requires the development of a security framework for the Middle East that guarantees the security of all countries in the region. Israel has attacked the positions of Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) that were formed by Iraq in 2014 to fight ISIS that threatened to seize Iraq and Syria. PMF receives support from Iran and includes participation by Hezbollah. ISIS remains a potent threat to all countries in the region including Iran. Regional threats like ISIS and missiles need to be addressed jointly by all countries including Israel. Macron/EU working with the Saudis and Iran have the capacity to initiate a process towards a regional security framework serving all countries in the region including Israel.

  154. Iran denies it had any role in attacking Saudi oil installations. And as desparate as the US is to come up with proof that Iran launched the attack, it has yet to produce it. So this column is more speculation than fact. Thomas Friedman is lucky he’s writing pro-Saudi columns. At least one unpopular journalist in Saudi Arabia ended up chopped up in pieces in the Saudi embassy in Ankara. Which brings up this question: Is Israel wise to be cozying up to the Saudis to keep themselves safe from the Iran/Lebanon axis? Can you really count on the Saudis? I look forward to hearing what Mr. Friedman has to say on that topic!

  155. “We will hit Tehran. You will not sit out this war. And you will not out-crazy us.” So the Israelis are boasting that they are crazier than theIr enemies. The boast has a long pedigree. Threatening irrational violence in response to political pressure has been an Israeli impulse from early on. Moshe Dayan: “Israel must be like a mad dog, too dangerous to bother.” As quoted by Martin van Creveld, the famous Israeli war theorist. But if Israel is likely to strike out in unpredictable ways, so too may Donald Trump, he of great and unmatched wisdom (isn’t that like just totally crazy?). He may actually have the nerve to double cross Sheldon and Bibi, instead of kowtowing which is all he has done until now. How about NO war, NO regime change in Iran, and NO American soldiers dying in someone else's conflict? Now that would certainly be a new tack to say the least. 7:20pm

  156. It’s easy to blame Israel when you’re sitting behind your computer in cozy New York. The Israelis are rightfully terrified because they can’t afford to lose a battle.

  157. How great would it be if this crazy emperor made a deal with the Iranians and told Israel and Saudi Arabia to pound sand?

  158. Whew...this is complicated. There were thoughts and questions that came to mind while reading this op ed. First, of course, is Mr. Trump. There are so many untoward consequences at the ready after the Trump-Erdogan infamous phone call. Much of the focus to date has been on the fate of the Kurds and a subsequent vacuum left welcoming a resurgent ISIS. I did not realize until now the threat toward Israel via Iran with its subsequent land "bridge" to more violence and possibly war. But Thomas is on to something. Mr. Trump does not like losers, and Bibi is losing. Add to this recipe for disaster, the probable ingredients of favors passed and traded between two dictatorial presidents, both caring not one wit for the Jewish homeland. (Jared, are you paying attention?) The other thought is that if there is a full-blown war between these enemies, Israel will win. But the cost will be great to the Persian people. Their leaders may be ruthless, but their culture is rich and proud. I end this with a question: Is there a correlation to be made between this present ominous unrest and our pulling out of the Iran Nuclear Deal?

  159. @Kathy Lollock Yes. The nuclear deal was a step toward less confrontation and made moderates in Iran more powerful. Reneging on the deal undercut them and put the radical Islamic fundamentalists in control.

  160. It has to do with the Trump Towers in Istanbul. Are you that naive? Erdogan’s call reminded Trump of the investments made on his name in Turkey.

  161. @Kathy Lollock I wouldn't be too certain that Israel will "win." In a war of 21st century violence a nation as physically compact as Israel is at a disadvantage. Further, anyone's victory will likely be Pyrrhic.

  162. "Iran’s airstrike on Saudi oil sites exposed vulnerabilities around the region." At least for the time being, the aftermath of the airstrikes had the following effect on international oil markets: Zero. The price didn't rise, gasoline prices showed a little blip and then fell back to where they were pre-strike. According to oilprice.com, six of the nine prices it highlights every day fell in the last 24 hours. Oil people are in a tizzy, hoping and hoping and hoping the price will leap into uncharted territory. Well, maybe it will. But not so far. Better gas mileage around the globe and the emerging electric car industry has evidently taken a toll on oil demand, as reflected by the market. I hope Israel survives and Iran fades, but for the rest of them, let them go on an internecine tear, go back to their kingdoms and newly fancy cities, and disappear from the daily news.

  163. @Stephen Beard Do not mistake a warning short, for the full battle. Oil production in the Gulf will fold up like a cheap card table and the economies of Europe and China along with it. Now consider the possibilities for global war.

  164. @pinetree -- You may well be right, but aren't you tired half to death with the continuing drama in the Middle East? Caused large by our hand? That turmoil seems, at least for the time being, to have had little effect on oil prices. If what you see -- oil production collapsing like an empty suit and war on the horizon -- we'll deal with it one way or the other.

  165. @Stephen Beard I hope IRAN survives and ISRAEL fades, but for the rest of them, let them go on an internecine tear, go back to their kingdoms and newly fancy cities, and disappear from the daily news. An added bonus would be a just settlement and a real homeland for the Palestinian people.

  166. We can all assume that trumps pullout in Syria is not well thought out but reactionary besides it provides the media with another distraction while trump is trying to undermine his impeachment. It is just the conman's shell game that he repeats over and over again. I think that your analysis is spot on Mr. Friedman. If Bibi and company had not been so focused on stealing Palestinian lands in the West Bank and made an attempt to make the Palestinians more inclusive then perhaps Iran would have failed to enlist them in their battle with Israel. But just what have the Palestinians to lose at this juncture or the Lebanese stuck on a narrow strip of land. This will not end well. One can assume that Iran already has a plan in place or nearly in place to launch a drone attack on Israel. This will drag the US into another middle eastern war that has a "no win" scenario. The Israeli people will suffer and Iran may face annihilation.

  167. Please stop saying "Republican Guards" ! ...... You're mixing up countries and looking uninformed. It's Revolutionary Guards. Better yet, Use their real name : Pasdaran Merci.

  168. So, this is what happens when the U.S. stops being the Middle East referee. Who coulda thunk? God help the Isrealis. Fools to the left, jokers to the right, Bibi stuck high and dry.

  169. The Saudis have not retaliated. The Turks are reaffirming their ongoing relations with Iran. The bombing was clearly intended to settle a score between Iran and the Saudis. And the bone of contention is likely Saudi aggression in Yemen. What Trump or the Israelis may make of this is mostly beside the point. A precision bombing of Saudi Arabia with a precise purpose is not a show of force. It is a military attack with a military purpose. If Israel’s GPS is resetting, it ought to get a new one that understands that the settling of a score between Iran and the Saudis was not designed to intimidate the fabulous military arsenal of Israel.

  170. This is consistent with the Trump Administration's policies apparently designed based upon the Christian belief in Rapture and a desire to create Armageddon in the Middle East. Of course, an aspect of Rapture is the Christian belief that Jewish people will accept Jesus Christ and their Lord and Savior of be put to death. While I don't believe in Rapture, the belief is about the elimination -- erasure -- of diversity. This is a central theme in the Trump Administration. And, I, for one, can't think of anything more antisemitic than the belief that Judaism will cease to exist and enacting policies designed based upon such a belief.

  171. What it exposed was the incompetence of Saudi Arabia and the U.A.E. and Israeli hubris. Carpet bombing civilians in the Shiite suburbs of Beirut and missile strikes on Iran will only lead to escalation and unless Israel uses a nuclear weapon against Iran demography and ability to absorb pain and still fight back favors Iran. Israel might consider diplomacy with Iran for the Democratic president who succeeds Trump in 2020 is not going to war with Iran to save Israel.

  172. George Bush Junior (and his brain, Neo-Con, Dick Cheney) destabilized the Middle East with their phony WMD trumped-up (excuse the expression) short-term political strategy of winning the 2004 election. ("We're at war now...you can't say anything or you're a traitor...support out troops.") Now, you've got a reality-TV host and seller of frozen steaks and long neckties running your foreign "policy." Same strategy though. Make an international mess and then: "You can't say anything - we're at war - or you're a traitor." Netanyahu is Trump's brain. And it's not a bad brain if you're an Israeli. But Iran settled the Saudi's hash with their cruise missile attack on the oilfields. The Iranians are not complete idiots or impotent as the American TV star provokes them unnecessarily.

  173. Once the war is over, maybe President Trump and his GOP backers will be able to green-light several of his high-end hotel/condo towers to be built on the ruins and Mike Pence will personally bless them.

  174. $7,000,000,000 into Iraq/Afghanistan!! I totally disagree with Trump, but on this- we need to sit it out! no need to barrow more money we don't have (from china) and spend it in pointless wars that are unwinnable. at some point, people in the area have to figure it out on their own. and maybe with less outside involvement, they will!?

  175. Enough about Israel. Israel can take care of itself, and they don’t even need to - they have our unconditional support.

  176. The Mideast is going to hades in a hand basket. The US has failed to retaliate for the attack upon Saudi’s oil field. The withdrawal from northeastern outposts will enable Iran’s plot to attack Israel and allow Turkey to attack the Kurds. If Obama was only more aggressive as Clinton and used our military to intervene in Syria, all of this would be avoided. Is our Mideast influence on the decline because of we did not use enough military action? Is Iran’s bridge going through a tumultuous Iraq that is rent with ethnic hatred and violence and bypass 112,000 US soldiers already in Iraq. Does the repositioning of 50 soldiers make the bridge more likely? Nikolaos Van Dam in Destroying A Nation wrote the mistake the US made was not sending a quarter million soldiers, but cutting diplomatic ties with Damascus. Our presence would have kept channels open, it may have ameliorated some of the violence or gave us input into a settlement. John Mearsheimer in The Tragedy of Great Power Politics makes a strong argument that a great power has trouble in extending its reach across oceans. Relying upon surrogates is an option. Turkey may destroy the Kurds, but not likely to take on Iran. The Gulf kings cannot defend themselves with our arms. They want our soldiers. Israel has peace on two of its borders. Neither Syria nor Lebanon pose an extensional threat. Iran is “a bridge too far.” Friedman’s concern should be about decades of failed US policy, not imaginary bridges.

  177. There is more mischief Iran is doing than reported here. Such as Iran instigating Shia militias in Iraq to oust American troops. From Le Monde, one day ago These all-powerful pro-Iranian Shiite militias who want to oust the Iraqi Americans The all-powerful pro-Iranian Shiite militias who want to oust the American troops from Iraq These powerful militias are integrated into the Iraqi security apparatus but their leaders swear loyalty to Iran. They continue their rise to power and worry the Western coalition. The former deputy of Ramadi still remembers the dinner at Barham Saleh, the President of the Republic of Iraq, organized in honor of Ali Larijani, the Speaker of the Parliament of Iran. "Larijani recognized that Iran would never have imagined that the United States would give him such great gifts by intervening in Afghanistan in 2001, and especially in Iraq in 2003, to overthrow his enemy, Saddam Hussein," Jaber recalls. Jaberi, former Sunni elected official of western Iraq. Since then, thanks to a vast network of political and paramilitary relays, Iran has turned Iraq into its backyard, a territory for her safety, a placet where Tehran's influence now seems irreversible. A neighbor who, never again, would pose a threat to the Islamic Republic. Le Monde

  178. First, Trump is a warmonger nonpareil and now he is a coward non-warmonger! Make up your mind, Friedman

  179. I thought the attack on the Saudi Oil fields was pretty funny. I hope nobody got killed. I guess the Iranians said, "If the world won't buy our oil, they won't be buying Saudi oil, either." And I don't blame them, either. With all the advances in aeronautics, guidance systems, electronics, etc. that we've had over the last 40 years it wasn't going to be long before those technologies would become readily available to most of the nations of the world. So, all this talk about bombing Iran back into the stone-age is ludicrous. As was pointed out, Israel realizes that their nuclear reactor complex is now susceptible to attack. And even a limited attack with a limited corresponding response is not a valid option.

  180. I like this analysis, probably accurate. But it brings one basic question I would love to bring up with the Iranian leadership. What's all this with Israel? Really, what is your problem? A country several hundred miles away, is it a threat to you? The Palestinians are your keen and you want to help them? I certainly can see that and Palestinians and their plight have my support. Now, you Ayatollahs, think about the money you have spent on all this. Wouldn't it have turned Gaza into an economic hub like Singapore? Why did not you do that instead?

  181. Hate to say this (ok, not really, lol) but i am laying the blame for this squarely at the feet of The Donald. His determination to abdicate US responsibilities and peace-keeping roles in the Middle East no matter which ally gets hurt, has emboldened Iran to the point where they now have no qualms at all about potentially starting a war with their arch-rival Saudi Arabia. If there is an all-out shooting match in the region, Herr Trump's unbelievably inept diplomatic efforts (plus his virtual destruction of the Department of State...) will be to blame far more than any of the participants.

  182. I, for one, am heartened that after decades of inspiring and sending their youth out into the world for such bravery as attacking unsuspecting civilians at malls, pizza parlors, bars, and sporting events (often against the countries that buy their only product that's worth anything), the Saudis are showing their courage once more by doing nothing, and hoping the Americans might do something about it.

  183. “…The Iranians, or their proxies, showed that they can hit specific targets with great precision and from a distance of hundreds of kilometers. We have to accept the fact that we are now vulnerable to such a strike.” Maybe it’s over-stating the obvious, but when an adversary sends you an invitation to join them in battle, you’re being led into a trap. If Iran has drones which are as advanced as those utilized by the IDF, then their technology is on par with ours as well. “The ruling clerics have deprived at least two generations of young Iranians...one reason that a brain drain and drug addiction are rampant among Iranian youth.” Another reason that drug addiction is as rampant as it is in Iran, is because of our continued presence in Afghanistan. I don’t imagine that the leadership in Tehran are not cognizant of this fact, either.

  184. If Israel wants to "carpet bomb" Lebanon, or shoot precision missiles at Iran, then I say fine. However, keep MY country--America--out of it. No American troops, no American intelligence, no American resupply. If Israel wants to start this kind of war, then go it alone. We don't need no more 1973 oil embargoes (that wrecked our economy because of Israel support). We don't need no more 9/11s (that wrecked our freedoms here at home because of Israel support). And we certainly don't need no more Iraq invasions/wars (that wrecked my kids future from all the war debt because of all the neocons and their desire to take out Iraq to support Israel). There simply is no real benefit for America in fighting Israel's battles or Israel's wars.

  185. you don't seem to be fan of the state of Israel? did I get it right.

  186. Why is the writers bias for his co-religionists so obvious? I suggest better camouflage, words chosen to obfuscate, hints rather than heavy handedness. Really! This is the NYT, and you must try harder.

  187. Friedman is right, if any of these accurate missiles target Israel, Israel will instigate Shock and Awe like the Middle East has never seen. The end result will be destruction of Lebanon, Gaza and Syria if they participate. Then Iran will have a choice, risk nuclear war or stop attacking Israel.

  188. Guess what country attacked, unprovoked, a US Navy ship in the Middle East during the Johnson administration? Hint: it starts with an I and is not Iran.

  189. Not one mention of Trump's unnecessary withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal and the expansion of America's crippling sanctions in this column. Are they not the equivalent of an economic war against Iran? Would any country sit still while being economically strangled? We lost more than a verifiable cessation of Iran's nuclear ambitions, thanks to Trump. We lost the opportunity for an economically successful Iran to do what most successful nations do, reject aggression in favor of growth, which is fostered by stability, And stability in Iran might have meant moderation domestically as well as internationally. We lost that opportunity thanks to Trump's America First foreign policy, which we now know is really a Trump First policy.

  190. This has nothing to do with Trump. It just happened on his watch. This is the result of nearly 30 years of failures and defeats of the US in the Middle East, starting with the failure of the 1991 Gulf War to overthrow the Iraq regime and establish a "stable" domination by the US. Then the 2001 and 2003 invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq ended in greater defeat amid widespread anger and unpopularity in the US, and unleashed instability throughout the entire region. Iran, the target of ending US hostility, benefitted from each debacle and at the most perfect moment imaginable struck and revealed the empire's nakedness. The limits of US power were being clearly demonstrated, as Saudi is driven into total defeat by Yemen. US military doctrine of fighting two major wars simultaneously has been defeated and now the US is forced to retrench as it focuses all its military, political, economic weapons on China to prepare for what the Ruling Rich and their twin parties perceive as its existential conflict to defend US world domination. Yes, there is massive 'recalculating' all across the world as every puppet, ally, and enemy take stock of US weakness. The borders of the Roman Empire are being pulled back and redrawn as the US rukers prepare for more war.

  191. It has everything to do with Trump. His abrogation of the nuclear treaty with Iran provoked the reaction of Iran. Who do you think we are? Rulers of the world? Get real!

  192. I'm surprised Mr. Friedman did not also address a significant larger context. Namely, what does this do for Russia? It is beyond peculiar that every foreign policy move and many domestic policy moves Trump has made has weakened the US vis-a-vis Russia. Republicans need to open their eyes to the wanton destruction Trump is doing to our international security. If they don't want to complicit in our diminution they need to act.

  193. Thank you for explaining this chessboard. It never ceases to amaze how complex the region is and how pushing one piece has such a ripple effect.

  194. This is getting scary enough that Iran must be recalculating too - what is Israel's nuclear threshold? How far can Iran go before triggering that. In another year, Trump will have not only doubled and tripled North Korea's nuclear capability replete with submarine launched missiles but also introduced Iran's own home grown nuclear weapons. Trump is not merely the worst President in all of US history, but the most dangerous one for this nation and the world.

  195. I agree (but why don’t the Republicans see it too?).

  196. Mr. Friedman. As always, a great analysis. Withdrawing from the Iran Deal, and reimposing more sanctions on Iran, was the biggest blunder. Does one expect Iran to go silent? Iran was kept in their place with the Iran Deal. Now they are going rogue, and gaining head line news. When Iran targeted the oil refineries in Saudi Arabia, that was calculated and strategic. Iran's foremost enemy or adversary is Israel. However, choosing to hit the Saudi Kingdom instead, Iran is showing the region and the world what they are capable of. The fact that the Saudis did not respond, shows it would be unwise to challenge the Iran calculation. We have also to take into account the most recent decision for a US pull out from the northern sectors of Syria. With this decision, Iran is one of the immediate beneficiaries. Iran is fast expanding its influence in the Middle East. Another beneficiary, Russia vying to take over a major player status in the region. Russia and Iran are old allies, together with Syria. Russia is growing their influence in the region, ably supported by Iran. With an unclear US foreign policy in the Middle East, our traditional allies like Israel, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Jordan and others are now placed in a situation, with many unanswered questions.