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Thursday, October 17, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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U.S. should look to the past, allies, before taking action in Middle East former Ambassador Crocker says

In this photo from 2011, U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan Ryan Crocker speaks to media during a press conference in Kabul, Afghanistan. Crocker, who now teaches and lives in the Spokane area, will lead a forum on the Middle East Thursday. (Musadeq Sadeq / AP)
In this photo from 2011, U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan Ryan Crocker speaks to media during a press conference in Kabul, Afghanistan. Crocker, who now teaches and lives in the Spokane area, will lead a forum on the Middle East Thursday. (Musadeq Sadeq / AP)

U.S. leaders may want to look at America’s own history in the Middle East and wait for more information before acting on the news that Saudi oil infrastructure was attacked over the weekend, former Ambassador to the Middle East Ryan Crocker said.

Crocker, who will be speaking Thursday in Spokane at a forum on the Middle East, said policymakers and the public need to consider the current context of the region before “shooting from the hip” during recent developments. This weekend, an oil processing plant and a key oil field in Saudi Arabia were attacked and a Iranian-backed rebel group claimed responsibility.

Crocker said leaders need to take the longstanding “cold war” situation between Iran and Saudi Arabia, U.S. sanctions against Iran and previous military actions in the region into account before retaliating or proposing new policies. While the U.S. isn’t dependent on Saudi oil, its allies are, Crocker said, and it should seek input from them before acting.

“We lead the world, we don’t rule it,” Crocker said. “Getting input from others is very important. Ascertain what the facts are before you determine what your reaction might be.”

Crocker said he didn’t necessarily expect an attack, or the White House reaction to the news that Iran may have been behind it, but he was not surprised.

“As we look at the things coming out of the White House, it is policy by Twitter and there, too, I’m never quite sure what I should expect,” he said. “All of that said, I would be … more than a little surprised if (President Donald Trump) had resorted to quick, significant military action.”

Crocker said destroying oil infrastructure isn’t a new tactic for the region; other countries, including the United States, have done so before. During the Reagan administration, the United States attacked two Iranian oil installations on Sirri Island in the Persian Gulf.

“We’ve been down a similar road and I think it would very much behoove policy makers now to look at what happened then, what worked, what didn’t work and why,” Crocker said.

Crocker served as an ambassador to Lebanon from 1990 to 1993, to Kuwait from 1994 to 1997, to Syria from 1998 to 2001, to Pakistan from 2004 to 2007, to Iraq from 2007 to 2009 and to Afghanistan from 2011 to 2012. Crocker, who grew up in Spokane and graduated from Whitman College, splits his time between his home outside of Spokane Valley and teaching on the East Coast.

On Thursday, he’ll be at the Wolff Auditorium in the Jepson Center at Gonzaga’s campus, where he’ll lead a public forum looking at the future of U.S. leadership in the region and the current state of governments in the area. The forum, hosted by People for Effective Government, is one of several recent events that have included local academics and leaders. Next month, PEG will feature Grant Forsyth, the chief economist at Avista.

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