Murky claims of sabotage to oil tankers off the coast of the United Arab Emirates. A drone attack on a pipeline in Saudi Arabia. A U.S. aircraft carrier strike group steaming toward an unspecified threat.
The events roiling the Persian Gulf in recent days have the potential to affect everything from the price of a gallon of gas to the fate of nations.
And for those feeling confused by it all, don’t worry: Everyone else seems to be puzzled too, only raising the possibility of a miscalculation.
Just as what sparked the rapid series of market-moving events remains unclear; so does the reason for the White House deploying warships and B-52 bombers to the region.
Days later, Iran marked the anniversary of President Donald Trump withdrawing the U.S. from Tehran’s nuclear deal with world powers by announcing it also would begin backing away from the accord. It set a 60-day deadline for Europe to offer it a better deal before it would begin enriching uranium to higher levels that the West fears could allow it to obtain atomic bombs.
“We are very worried about the risk of a conflict happening by accident with an escalation that is unintended really on either side but ends with some kind of conflict,” British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said recently.
The main threat Hunt referred to was any confrontation between the U.S. and Iran. This has been brewing ever since Trump, who campaigned on tearing up Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal, came to office.
After pulling out of the deal last year, the U.S. began a maximalist pressure campaign against Iran. It re-imposed sanctions. It created new ones, for the first time naming a part of a country’s armed forces a terrorist organization and squeezing Iran by threatening sanctions on any nation importing its crude oil.