Can U.N. Diplomacy Head Off Conflict Between the U.S. and Iran?

Can U.N. Diplomacy Head Off Conflict Between the U.S. and Iran?
An image provided by the U.S. government shows the damage to Saudi Aramco’s Abqaiq oil processing facility in eastern Saudi Arabia, Sept. 15, 2019 (U.S. government/Digital Globe via AP).

Kelly Knight Craft, America’s new ambassador to the United Nations, is about to have a tough week at work. With the crisis escalating over Saturday’s airstrikes on an oil processing facility and nearby oil field in Saudi Arabia, there’s no telling how things will go between now and the kick-off of the U.N. General Assembly in New York on Sept. 24. There is little doubt though that Craft will play a leading role as the U.S. and Saudi Arabia seek to make a case for the U.N. Security Council to take strong action against Iran, which Washington and Riyadh have accused of being behind the attack.

Since there is no formal mutual defense pact between the United States and Saudi Arabia, there are few legal options for direct U.S. military measures against Iran. Several leading members of Congress also made it clear during a forum on the future of special forces operations that I participated in this week that any attempt by the White House to act unilaterally against Iran in response to the attacks would likely meet with bipartisan resistance.

The lack of an obvious set of options for unilateral U.S. action means the spotlight will shift to the U.N. As a result, American and Saudi efforts to build a coalition against Iran will take center stage at the annual gathering of U.N. member states next week.

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