Trump says Iran likely behind Saudi attack but softens tone on military response


September 17, 2019 14:50:50

One day after saying the US was “locked and loaded” to retaliate against those responsible for the weekend’s attacks on Saudi Arabian oil plants, US President Donald Trump now says he is in “no rush” to take action.

Key points:

  • Mr Trump said he was not going to rush into a new conflict on behalf of Saudi Arabia
  • He said Mike Pompeo and others would travel to Saudi Arabia soon
  • Iran’s President said the strikes were carried out by “Yemeni people”

Details of the Saturday strikes on Abqaiq — the world’s largest oil processing facility — and the Khurais oil field in eastern Saudi Arabia remained unclear, but left crude oil output by the world’s top exporter slashed in half.

Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen claimed responsibility for the attack, which probably involved, according to reports, both drones and cruise missiles that struck their targets with surprising accuracy.

In Riyadh, officials said the attack involved “Iranian weapons”, but likewise fell short of directly accusing their regional arch-rival.

Several US Cabinet members, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Energy Secretary Rick Perry, have blamed Tehran for the strikes.

Mr Trump said Mr Pompeo and others would travel to Saudi Arabia soon.

“We have a lot of options but I’m not looking at options right now. We want to find definitively who did this,” he said.

He said the US was still investigating if Iran was behind the attacks, but added that “it’s certainly looking that way at this moment”.

“I’m somebody that would like not to have war,” he said.

Iran says Yemenis ‘exercising right to self-defence’

Iran has rejected US charges that it was behind the strikes.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said the strikes were carried out by “Yemeni people” retaliating for attacks by a Saudi-led military coalition in a war with the Houthi movement.

“Yemeni people are exercising their legitimate right of defence,” Mr Rouhani told reporters during a visit to Ankara.

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi called the US allegations of Iranian involvement “unacceptable and entirely baseless.”

The attacks cut 5 per cent of world crude oil production and caused oil prices to surge by as much as 19 per cent.

Saudi Arabia and Iran have been enemies for decades and are fighting a number of proxy wars.

But Mr Trump said he had not made commitments to protect the Saudis.

“No, I haven’t promised Saudis that. We have to sit down with the Saudis and work something out,” he said.

“That was an attack on Saudi Arabia, and that wasn’t an attack on us. But we would certainly help them.”

Two sources briefed on state oil company Saudi Aramco’s operations told Reuters it might take months for Saudi oil production to return to normal. Earlier estimates had suggested it could take weeks.

Saudi Arabia said it would be able to meet oil customers’ demand from its ample storage, although some deliveries had been disrupted. At least 11 supertankers were waiting to load oil cargoes from Saudi ports, ship tracking data showed on Monday.











First posted

September 17, 2019 12:36:57

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