The US wants a peaceful solution to the crisis sparked by attacks on Saudi oil facilities, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Thursday, after Iran raised the prospect of “all-out war”.
Pompeo has blamed Iran for the dramatic weekend assault on two facilities, condemning an “act of war” which knocked out half the kingdom’s oil production.
The rhetoric has raised the risk of an unpredictable escalation in a tinderbox region where Saudi Arabia and Iran are locked in a decades-old struggle for dominance.
After meeting with allies in Riyadh and Abu Dhabi, Pompeo said there was an “enormous consensus in the region” that Iran carried out the attacks, despite its denials and Yemeni rebels’ claims that they were responsible.
But Pompeo said the US was intent on finding a way out of the confrontation.
“We’d like a peaceful resolution. I think we’ve demonstrated that,” he told reporters.
“I hope the Islamic Republic of Iran sees it the same way.”
Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif earlier warned any US or Saudi military strike on Iran could cause “all-out war”.
“We don’t want war,” he told CNN in an interview aired Thursday, “but we won’t blink to defend our territory.”
– ‘Glass towers’ –
Saudi officials on Wednesday unveiled what they said were fragments of 25 drones and cruise missiles fired Saturday at the oil facilities in the country’s east, engulfing them in flames.
“The attack was launched from the north and unquestionably sponsored by Iran,” defence ministry spokesman Turki al-Maliki said, although he refused to be drawn on whether Saudi officials believed Iran directly carried out the operation.
Tehran-linked Huthi rebels in Saudi Arabia’s southern neighbour Yemen have claimed responsibility, but both Washington and Riyadh have said the operation was beyond the Yemeni insurgents’ capabilities.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian also said the Huthi claim “lacks credibility”.
The Huthis have however hit dozens of targets in Saudi Arabia, and their rapidly advancing arsenal has exposed the kingdom’s vulnerability despite its vast military spending.
The Huthis said Saturday’s assault was launched from three locations inside Yemen, using advanced drones with long-range capabilities.
They also threatened the United Arab Emirates — a key member of the Saudi-led coalition fighting the Shiite rebels — with strikes against “towers made of glass that cannot withstand one drone”, in apparent reference to the glitzy cities of Dubai and Abu Dhabi.
US military planners weighing retaliation have reportedly prepared a list of Iranian targets including the Abadan oil refinery, one of the world’s largest, and Khark Island, the country’s biggest crude export facility, the New York Times said.
Other potential targets include missile launch sites and other assets of the elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, along with bases near the Gulf.
“Any strikes against Iran would almost certainly be carried out by volleys of cruise missiles from (US) Navy vessels. Strike aircraft would be aloft to carry out attacks if Iran retaliated against the first wave,” the newspaper said.
– ‘New context’ –
The United Nations said Thursday that experts had arrived in Saudi Arabia to investigate Saturday’s attack, “at the invitation of the Saudi authorities”.
US officials quoted by CBS News say unreleased satellite photos showed Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps making preparations for the attack at Ahvaz airbase.
The latest spike in tensions has dampened speculation of a meeting between US President Donald Trump and his Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly next week.
French President Emmanuel Macron has been pushing for the meeting to defuse the standoff over the Iranian nuclear programme.
But on Thursday, a French presidential official who asked not to be named said Saturday’s attack “creates a new context”.
“There are still lots of things to sort out before we can see how to create the conditions for the United States and Iran to enter into a negotiation,” the official said.
But Iran’s foreign ministry reported Thursday that Zarif was set to leave for New York on Friday, apparently implying that both he and Rouhani had received visas for the UN summit.
State media had on Wednesday cast doubt on whether they would secure the necessary permits.
Zarif has been under US sanctions since July 31.
However, with tensions in the Gulf once again threatening to bubble over, Cinzia Bianco, a Middle East analyst at the European Council on Foreign Relations, warned of “an out-of-control chain of escalatory events.”
“Inside Saudi Arabia, there is uncertainty over the most appropriate course of action,” she told AFP.
“However the dominant thinking there points to the US targeting critical infrastructure in Iran so as to minimise or exclude any human cost.”
Trump declares impeachment ‘dead’ — and demands apology — in late night Twitter outburst
President Donald Trump lashed out on his favorite social media platform late Thursday evening.
Eight minutes before midnight eastern time, Trump unloaded.
Trump wrote, "Democrats must apologize to USA: Ukrainian Foreign Minister Vadym Prystaiko said that 'United States Ambassador Gordon Sondland did NOT link financial military assistance to a request for Ukraine to open up an investigation into former V.P. Joe Biden & his son, Hunter Biden. Ambassador Sondland did not tell us, and certainly did not tell me, about a connection between the assistance and the investigation.'”
Trump did not say why he was taking the word of a foreign official over multiple sworn testimonies from members of his own administration.
Pelosi is ‘marrying up the facts and the law’: Ex-prosecutor says ‘bribery’ is a critical indictment of Trump
Speaker Nancy Pelosi was masterful in using the word "bribery" to describe President Donald Trump's actions with Ukraine that are at the heart of the impeachment inquiry, according to a former federal prosecutor.
MSNBC anchor Brian Williams interviewed former Assistant U.S. Attorney Berit Berger on Thursday evening's "The Last Word."
Please expand for us on why it is significant and why is it important to label this bribery," Williams said.
"So I think Nancy Pelosi was very specific in calling this bribery for two reasons," Berger replied.
"The first is that -- unlike quid pro quo -- ribery is something that most people understand, especially people who have children," she said, with a chuckle. "We all sort of have a general understanding of that."
Giuliani henchmen showered Republican with cash — and Trump almost made him ambassador to Ukraine: report
Yet another bombshell report has shed new light on President Donald Trump's suspicious Ukraine policies.
"At the same time that Rudy Giuliani and his now-indicted pals were pushing for President Donald Trump to remove Amb. Marie Yovanovitch from her post in Ukraine, Trump administration officials were eyeing potential contenders to take over her job. One of the people in the mix, according to three sources familiar with the discussions, was Rep. Pete Sessions, a former Congressman who called for Yovanovitch’s firing," The Daily Beast reported Thursday night. "He is also a longtime ally of the former New York Mayor, and is believed to have taken millions of dollars from Giuliani’s indicted cronies."