US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was to fly to Saudi Arabia Tuesday to discuss possible retaliation after Washington said it had proof that attacks on Saudi oil installations originated in Iran.
Vice President Mike Pence announced that Pompeo was on his way to Saudi Arabia to “discuss our response.”
“As the president said, we don’t want war with anybody but the United States is prepared,” Pence said in a speech to the Heritage Foundation think tank in Washington.
“We’re locked and loaded and we’re ready to defend our interests and allies in the region, make no mistake about it,” he said, echoing President Donald Trump’s words on Monday.
A US official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told AFP that the Trump administration has concluded that last weekend’s attack involved cruise missiles from Iran and that evidence would be presented at the UN General Assembly next week.
The apparent hardening of the US position came as Iran’s supreme leader ruled out negotiations with Washington “at any level.”
This appeared to nix remaining hopes for a dramatic meeting between Trump and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani at the United Nations next week.
Speaking to reporters on Air Force One over California, 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-Saudi proxy war –
Yemen’s Iranian-backed Huthi rebels claimed responsibility for Saturday’s oil installation attacks, which halved output from the petro-state, the world’s biggest crude producer and a close ally of Washington.
The Huthis are at war with Saudi-backed forces in Yemen, turning the impoverished nation into a proxy battlefield for bitter regional rivals Tehran and Riyadh.
The increasingly complex conflict dovetails with the Trump administration’s attempt to curb Iranian power through a “maximum pressure” campaign of crippling economic sanctions.
Trump began that campaign after unilaterally pulling out of a 2015 international deal meant to reward Iran for allowing restrictions on its nuclear industry. He says that Tehran is secretly cheating and trying to build nuclear weapons and must be stopped.
Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Washington’s real goal was to bring his country to its knees.
“The policy of ‘maximum pressure’ against the Iranian nation is worthless and all Islamic Republic of Iran officials unanimously believe there will be no negotiations with the US at any level,” he said in a televised address.
Khamenei also said that as long as sanctions are in place, direct talks are impossible, including a meeting at the UN.
“Without this, no negotiations will happen at any level between the Islamic Republic of Iran’s officials and the Americans, not during the visit to New York or any other visit,” he said.
– Support for war? –
Whether the new stage of the long-running US-Iranian standoff leads to a shooting war is the big unknown.
Saudi Arabia, which has bought huge quantities of US weaponry, is considered a strategic ally in the region, second to Israel, another bitter foe of Iran.
Trump called off a retaliatory US missile attack on Iran in June after the Iranians shot down a spy drone. He said he did not want to kill what generals told him could be up to 150 people.
He has indicated that he may no longer feel that restraint.
“I’m not looking to get into new conflict, but sometimes you have to,” he said Monday. “That was a very large attack, and it could be met by an attack many, many times larger.”
In Congress, Republican Senator Mitt Romney told reporters the United States should not be drawn into war. “Saudi Arabia is fully capable, with the weapons we’ve sold them, to respond in a way they think is appropriate,” he said.
But fellow Republican Lindsey Graham — a vital Trump ally in Congress — struck a more belligerent tone, charging that “such a sophisticated attack could not have occurred without Iran’s blessing and direct involvement.”
“This is literally an act of war and the goal should be to restore deterrence against Iranian aggression which has clearly been lost,” Graham said.
– Oil market nervous –
The contested strikes hit Abqaiq, the world’s largest oil processing facility, and the Khurais oil field in eastern Saudi Arabia.
Oil markets continued to eye the situation carefully. Prices receded five percent on Tuesday, reversing some of the previous day’s gains as analysts said they were expecting Saudi output to recover sooner than expected after the weekend’s attacks.
Energy specialists S&P Platt said around three million barrels per day of Saudi crude would remain offline for at least a month.
Fox News graphic busts White House press secretary for lying about Syria cease-fire
A Fox News chyron underlined a major lie by White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham.
She still hasn't given an official press briefing, but Grisham made one of her frequent appearances on "Fox & Friends" to celebrate a cease-fire negotiated Thursday by Vice President Mike Pence that's already been broken.
"The president has an obligation to look out for the troops and look out for the country," Grisham said, justifying President Donald Trump's decision to remove troops from northern Syria and abandoned Kurdish allies to ethnic cleansing by Turkey.
"When (Turkish president Recep Tayyip) Erdo?an made it clear he was going to invade, the president acted decisively to pull our military out of the way," Grisham said. "He sent a delegation over to get a cease-fire. That takes time."
James Mattis finally fires back at Trump in a surprisingly funny charity speech
Former US defense secretary James Mattis said he was honored to be the "world's most overrated general" in a swipe at his former boss Donald Trump who insulted him earlier this week.
At a gala charity dinner in New York Thursday evening, Mattis told diners he had now "achieved greatness."
"I'm not just an overrated general. I am the greatest, the world's most overrated," he said.
"I'm honored to be considered that by Donald Trump because he also called Meryl Streep an overrated actress," he said.
"So I guess I'm the Meryl Streep of generals, and frankly that sounds pretty good to me," he said to laughter and applause at the annual Alfred E Smith Memorial Foundation dinner.
‘We’ve entered a shame-free zone’: CNN’s Sciutto appalled by Trump’s ‘mind-boggling’ G7 corruption
CNN's Jim Sciutto on Friday did not mince words when talking about President Donald Trump's decision to host next year's G7 summit at his own golf course in Doral, Florida.
During a segment about the president's multiple corruption scandals, Sciutto described Trump's G7 gambit as the president "explicitly, publicly steering a taxpayer-funded government contract to [his] own business." He then asked former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti to comment on why this scandal might get Trump into hot legal water.