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US says 'Iranian attack' on Saudi oil facilities was 'act of war'

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made the comments when arriving in the Saudi city of Jeddah.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
Image: PA Images

US SECRETARY OF State Mike Pompeo has described strikes on key Saudi oil installations as an “act of war”, reiterating that it was an “Iranian attack”.

“This was an Iranian attack,” he told reporters on his plane before landing in the Saudi city of Jeddah, calling it “an act of war”.

He added there was no evidence the attacks had been launched from Iraq, amid media speculation the drones had been fired from there

US President Donald Trump and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson also spoke today of a “united diplomatic response” to the attack, Downing Street said without mentioning a military option.

“They condemned the attacks and discussed the need for a united diplomatic response from international partners. They also spoke about Iran and agreed that they must not be allowed to obtain a nuclear weapon,” the British leader’s office said in a statement.

The reaction from western leaders came as Saudi Arabia said today that the strikes on its oil infrastructure were “unquestionably” sponsored by Iran.

The country added that the strikes originated from the north but that the exact launch site was yet to be pinned down.

It displayed what it said were fragments of the arsenal of 18 drones and seven cruise missiles that devastated two facilities in the country’s east, knocking out half the kingdom’s oil production.

“The attack was launched from the north and unquestionably sponsored by Iran,” defence ministry spokesman Turki al-Maliki told a press conference.

“We are working to know the exact launch point.”

saudi-persian-gulf-tensions Remains of what was described as a misfired Iranian cruise missile displayed by the Saudi military. Source: Amr Nabil/PA Images

However, he would not be drawn on whether Saudi Arabia believed that Iran would ultimately be found to be the culprit, only saying they were confident they would find where the weapons were fired from.

Diplomats at the United Nations said experts were expected in the kingdom to lead an international inquiry.

Yemen’s Iran-backed Huthi rebels, who have claimed Saturday’s strikes, vowed meanwhile they had the means to hit “dozens of targets” in the United Arab Emirates.

Saudi’s de facto leader Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman told Russian leader Vladimir Putin in a phone call the kingdom wants an international investigation that would be seen as highly credible, the state news agency SPA reported.

President Donald Trump — who has already re-imposed sanctions that have crippled Iran’s economy — today promised to “substantially increase” the measures, winning quick praise from Riyadh.

Prefer not to meet

A US official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told AFP that the administration has concluded that the attack involved cruise missiles from Iran and that evidence would be presented at the UN General Assembly next week.

“As the president said, we don’t want war with anybody, but the United States is prepared,” Vice President Mike Pence said in a speech in Washington yesterday.

(Click here if video doesn’t play)

The apparent hardening of the US position came as Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei ruled out negotiations with Washington “at any level”.

That appeared to nix remaining hopes for a dramatic meeting between President Donald Trump and his Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani at the United Nations next week.

Speaking to reporters on Air Force One, Trump said he too had cooled on what had always seemed to be a diplomatic longshot.

“I never rule anything out, but I prefer not meeting him,” Trump said.

Iran-backed Huthi rebels in Yemen, who are locked in a prolonged conflict with a Saudi-led military coalition, claimed responsibility for Saturday’s oil installation attacks, which took out 6% of global supplies.

But Riyadh and Washington have both ruled that out.

“Despite Iran’s efforts to make it appear so” they did not originate from Yemen, Maliki said, adding the strike was beyond the capabilities of the militia — who have however mounted dozens of smaller attacks on Saudi territory.

“The precision impact of the cruise missile indicated advance capability beyond (Iranian) proxy capacity,” he said, adding that they also struck from a direction that ruled out its southern neighbour Yemen as a source.

Observers say the experience in Yemen, where despite their vast firepower, the Saudis have failed to subdue the ragtag but highly motivated militia, has made Riyadh circumspect about wading into another conflict.

Iran has stuck with its account that the Huthis were responsible, and Rouhani said the rebels had done so as a “warning” about a possible wider war in response to the Saudi-led intervention in Yemen.

State media said Tehran had written to Washington through the Swiss embassy on Monday, denying any role in attacks on Saudi oil installations and warning it would respond to any action.

© – AFP 2019

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