The attack carried out by Houthi forces in Yemen that targeted oil facilities in Saudi Arabia heated up tensions between the U.S. and Iran. Trump was likely to meet with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani at the UN summit in New York. It was also known that Trump wanted to alleviate the “maximum pressure” campaign against Iran. John Bolton, previous National Security Advisor, who wanted a regime change in Iran, was fired for opposing Trump on this.
Replacing Bolton with Robert O'Brien, who is known as “Bolton Lite,” will not change Trump's stance. O’ Brien, who worked with UN Ambassador Bolton under George W. Bush, is also known as a Republican hawk. Trump's O' Brien pick is seen by Washington as a victory for Pompeo. The difference between Pompeo and Bolton is that the former will stop whenever Trump tells him to.
The Trump administration, which holds Iran responsible for the missile attacks on Saudi facilities, has decided to send some troops to Saudi Arabia, as well as impose heavy sanctions on Iran's Central Bank. With these decisions, the U.S. military presence in the region was increased.
There is a lobby in Washington that wants the U.S. to intervene against Iran. With Bolton gone, Israel lost one of its key allies, but the lobby is still influential in the White House. U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Jared Kushner and U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman are also part of this lobby. Senator Lindsey Graham and Sheldon Adelson, the billionaire businessman who has invested in Trump's Presidency, are on the same list. Christian-Zionist Evangelicals who support Trump are among Israel's key allies in the United States.
Trump does not want to fight Iran because he promised to pull U.S. troops out of protracted wars in the 2016 elections. Trump is stuck between election promises and the demands of the anti-Iranian lobby. In the 2016 elections, Trump received the most votes from the regions where families of veterans were killed or injured in wars lived. Trump does not want to offend the Israeli Lobby, but he cannot afford to lose these constituents in the 2020 elections.
At the U.S. Congress there are strong objections against a war with Iran. The Senate and the House of Representatives had also taken decisions to restrict the sale of arms to Saudi Arabia. The reason for these decisions was that U.S. weapons were used against civilians in Yemen. Democrats oppose military intervention, citing Saudi Arabia as a member of NATO, as well as the lack of a defense agreement between Washington and Riyadh. As a matter of fact, Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, declared that they did not support a military operation against Iran in retaliation for the attack on Saudi facilities.
The fact that Trump extended sanctions against Iran and allowed the deployment of new troops to Saudi Arabia does not mean that a military option was underway. At first, Trump made very harsh statements about North Korea, including the option of a military intervention. Trump then held face-to-face talks with the North Korean leader. Although the talks have not been concluded, the two leaders continue to send warm messages of praise to each other.
The Trump administration is trying to build a so-called new military coalition against Iran in the Gulf. Having held talks with the United Arab Emirates and Saudi authorities in this regard, Pompeo says that they will try to include the U.S's European allies in this coalition. The EU, which disagrees with Trump on many issues, cannot be seen as willing to intervene in Iran.
Of course, Trump has used all these initiatives as leverage to bring Iran to the table, but it is possible that things will derail. Despite Trump's open support, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu lost the elections on September 17th. Since no party can form a government on its own, there is the possibility of renewing elections once again. Therefore, it’s not unlikely that new provocations will take place in the region.