THE United States was “locked and loaded” last weekend. So said President Donald Trump following the swarm of drones and cruise missiles that struck some of Saudi Arabia’s most important oil infrastructure.

Washington wasted no time in pointing the finger at Iran, and was talking tough as pressure mounted for America to react on behalf of its Saudi allies.

Then Trump did what he often does, and appeared to back off saying there was “no rush”to respond until there was a definitive answer as to who was responsible, and even offered to meet with Iranian President Hassan Rohani.

The National:

If nothing else the audacious strike against the Abqaiq petroleum processing facilities and its immediate aftermath should serve as a sobering reminder to us all. Not only did it disrupt half of Saudi Arabia’s oil and gas production and shocked Washington, but predictably also led to US Neocons using the attack to call for war with Iran.

“It is now time for the US to put on the table an attack on Iranian oil refineries …” tweeted Republican senator Lindsey Graham, one of numerous American politicians who make the recently ousted hawkish national security adviser John Bolton look almost like a dove. And there’s no shortage of such people within the Trump administration.

READ MORE: Iran warns any attack will mean ‘all-out war’

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who is supposed to represent US diplomacy, likewise jumped to blame Iran for the attack on Saudi Arabia, tweeting that “Iran has now launched an unprecedented attack on the world’s energy supply”.

Speaking to reporters, Pompeo described the raids on the oil installations as an “act of war” and reiterated that it was an “Iranian attack”.

This despite the Houthi rebel group in Yemen assuming responsibility, but hey let’s not allow facts to get in the way of that all-out war with Iran that some within the Trump administration so fervently desire. For make no mistake about it, that is what they want, even if any full war with Iran would be a catastrophe.

Iran has twice the population of Iraq and would be a much more formidable foe than Iraq was.

Not that all Americans are ready and willing to fall for such dangerous warmongering. It was Robert Gates, the former US defence secretary, who once scoffed that Saudi Arabia “wants to fight the Iranians to the last American”.

This week in The New York Times, columnist Nicholas Kristof reminded readers of Gates’s observation in an article the headline of which pretty much sums up the feeling of many right now.

READ MORE: Trump ready to take military action after drone strike on oil plant

“We’re not Saudis Mercenaries,” it declared before the piece went on to warn of the dangers of America slipping “toward that nightmare”.

There are those, of course, who would argue that for a long time now that precisely has been the problem, with Washington only too willing to do the bidding of Riyadh. Certainly the Trump administration has been very cosy with the latest Saudi leader Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS), even if UN rights experts have cited “credible evidence” linking him to the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Every step of the way Trump has bent over backwards for Riyadh and looked the other way from their often-appalling misconduct.

“I have great confidence in King Salman and the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, they know exactly what they are doing,” Trump tweeted after MBS locked up dozens of wealthy Saudis without trial.

When it comes to foreign policy right now, Trump resembles someone who sets fire to his hair and then tries to put it out by hitting it with a hammer. The whole standoff with Iran and tensions with Saudi Arabia need never have reached the current levels were it not for Trump’s willingness to listen to those hawkish voices within his close circle that have Tehran in their sights.

Trump’s willingness to let the Iran nuclear deal be undermined also contributed greatly to the current volatility.

Iran itself is, of course, no Mr Nice Guy in all of this, being a heinous human rights abuser and sponsor of terrorism, but its diplomatic alienation has only grown greater because of Trump’s cack-handed approach and sabre-rattling.

READ MORE: Donald Trump fires national security adviser John Bolton

The attack on Saudi oil production is only the latest blowback from Washington’s belligerent policies in the region and will be far from the last. The Iranians might be many things but they are no fools. In all the years of confrontation between Washington and Tehran, it can be argued Iran has learned more about how to handle the US rather than the other way round. To date Iran appears so far to have judged quite well what it can get away with.

“He is not a lion, he is a rabbit,” said Ali Bigdeli, a political analyst in Tehran, speaking of Trump, according to the New York Times, and perhaps that gets closer to the truth than the US would ever dare admit.

Ultimately Iran is well aware that Trump has postured and blustered about his willingness to use military force to rein in countries he considers hostile to the US, but then fails to follow through.

Earlier this year in June, Trump ordered a military strike on Iran, only to call it off at the last minute. Tehran knows, too, that a US presidential election is looming and that Trump wants to live up to his campaign vows to reduce foreign entanglements.

Trump, the so-called “great” deal-maker, will be worried, too, about the economic and political ramifications of embroiling America in a war with Iran.

Perhaps the most worrying thing about the events in Saudi Arabia

this past week is that it’s probably only these factors that have prevented a potentially catastrophic escalation of the situation and Trump acting on his “locked and loaded” threat.

In all it was a stark reminder of the tinderbox that the Middle East remains and how easily it would be to be drawn into another costly war there, whether by intent or sheer diplomatic incompetence. In preventing such a disaster to that end it’s vital the world continues to remains vigilant and calls out the warmongering whenever it rears its ugly head.