ATTACKS ON SAUDI OIL FACILITIES HEIGHTEN REGIONAL AND GLOBAL TENSIONS
Iran was responsible for the attacks on two Saudi oil facilities earlier this month, the leaders of the United Kingdom, France and Germany said, drawing a sharp response from Iranian officials. The leaders issued a joint statement on Monday [23 September] as British Prime Minister Boris Johnson hinted that the UK may withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal, as US President Donald Trump did last year. All three countries are signatories to the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) – commonly referred to as the “nuclear deal” – between Iran and world powers, which offered Iran relief from global sanctions in exchange for imposing limitations on its nuclear programme. The 14 September drone attacks, which were claimed by the Houthi rebels in Yemen, have elevated tensions in the region. (Aljazeera)
Overview of recent events
The attacks on the Saudi Arabian oil facilities on 14 September reportedly involved 18 drones and seven cruise missiles and rapidly escalated conflict between Saudi Arabia (the leading Sunni Islam power), Iran (the leading nation for Shia Islam) and Western powers that has been building for months. More than half of Saudi Arabia’s oil output was affected, which translated to five percent of the global oil supply, as the Islamic kingdom is the world’s top global exporter of oil.
The attack was claimed by the Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen (who are fighting a Saudi-led coalition), but US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo accused Iran of orchestrating the attack, and other world powers have followed suit. Iran has vehemently denied and rejected these allegations, while also calling for an end to the war in Yemen.
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said that the kingdom would “confront and deal with this terrorist aggression”, and that the attacks were “a dangerous escalation for the whole world that requires a firm stand to preserve international peace and security”. With the US and Saudi Arabia long having kept to a strategic alliance, Mr Trump hinted that the US would take military action if necessary, and said that US troops would be sent to Saudi Arabia to boost its security.
At the recent United Nations General Assembly in New York, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said that his nation would not tolerate “provocative intervention of foreigners”. He also accused the US of “merciless economic terrorism” and warned that the Gulf region “is on the edge of collapse as a single blunder can fuel a big fire”.
FROM A CHRISTIAN PERSPECTIVE
There are many different ways in which to view the current situation, and many different concerns. For some, especially in the West, there are concerns about the economy and how the disruption in oil production will have ripple effects. There are also political concerns about what the current tensions mean for the Iranian nuclear deal and what might happen down the line if that falls apart. For journalists seeking the ‘truth’ of the situation, there are challenges regarding accurate information about who is actually responsible for what. For Iranians, there may be fears of being caught up in an actual war, and for humanitarian agencies, the focus might be on the fact that yet another war might create thousands of new refugees in addition to all those around the world currently in need of assistance.
For Christians, all of these concerns might impact us in different ways, but from a Kingdom perspective, they are not our primary focus. We are called to understand (even if not in full) how God is using the situation to draw people to Himself, and how He might want us to be a part of that. One trend we see again and again is how Islam is divided against itself (primarily Sunni against Shia), and how disillusionment among Muslims may create more of an openness to the Gospel – in the current conflict between Saudi Arabia and Iran, the deep divisions could prove to be a Kingdom benefit. There is also a continued need for a Christian mission presence in the Muslim world – if Christianity is associated with the West and if the Western world is seen to be responsible for war and conflict, then there needs to be Christians who can present a different face and voice and who can live out Christ’s love in person.
In all of this, there is need for much prayer – for wisdom for decision makers in positions of power, for peace-makers to work against an escalation towards war, for softened hearts among Muslims who are impacted by the tensions and conflict, and for local and foreign believers in the Muslim world to be salt and light in a way that would draw others into the Kingdom of God.
- For peacemakers in the various governments to work against escalations towards war
- For the conflict and divisions within Islam to soften hearts to the Gospel message
- For Christians in the Muslim world to be channels of peace, life and hope in Christ