Saudi oil at­tacks

Drone strikes knock out world’s largest oil re­fin­ery

The Korea Times - - FRONT PAGE -

WASH­ING­TON (Reuters) — U.S. Sec­re­tary of State Mike Pom­peo on Satur­day ac­cused Iran of lead­ing at­tacks on Saudi oil plants that have cut the king­dom’s out­put roughly in half, as he ruled out Yemeni in­volve­ment and de­nounced Tehran for en­gag­ing in false diplo­macy.

Ye­men’s Iran-aligned Houthi group claimed credit for the at­tacks on two plants at the heart of Saudi Ara­bia’s oil in­dus­try, in­clud­ing the world’s big­gest pe­tro­leum pro­cess­ing fa­cil­ity.

Pom­peo, how­ever, said on Twit­ter that there was no ev­i­dence the at­tacks came from Ye­men.

“Tehran is be­hind nearly 100 at­tacks on Saudi Ara­bia while Rouhani and Zarif pre­tend to en­gage in diplo­macy,” Pom­peo said, re­fer­ring to Iran’s Pres­i­dent Has­san Rouhani and For­eign Min­is­ter Mohammed Javad Zarif.

“Amid all the calls for de-es­ca­la­tion, Iran has now launched an un­prece­dented at­tack on the world’s en­ergy sup­ply,” he added. The State Depart­ment de­clined to pro­vide any ev­i­dence to bol­ster Pom­peo’s claim.

“We call on all na­tions to pub­licly and un­equiv­o­cally con­demn Iran’s at­tacks,” Pom­peo said, warn­ing that the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion would work with its al­lies to make sure Iran was “held ac­count­able for its ag­gres­sion.”

The tweets sig­naled a more hawk­ish stance in Wash­ing­ton to­wards Tehran, fol­low­ing signs of a pos­si­ble thaw in re­la­tions be­tween the two na­tions af­ter months of es­ca­la­tion.

Last year, U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump with­drew the United States from a 2015 pact that aimed to keep a lid on Tehran’s nu­clear am­bi­tions and he has im­posed a se­ries of sanc­tions that have crip­pled Iran’s econ­omy.

But in re­cent weeks, Trump has said he would be open to meet­ing with Rouhani, per­haps on the side­lines of the United Na­tional Gen­eral Assem­bly in New York later this month. Pom­peo has said such talks could take place with­out any pre­con­di­tions.

Rouhani, for his part, has said that Tehran, which de­nies seek­ing nu­clear weapons, would not talk to the United States un­til Wash­ing­ton lifts the sanc­tions.

Repub­li­can Sen­a­tor Lind­say Gra­ham, a close Trump ally and a mem­ber of the Se­nate For­eign Re­la­tions Com­mit­tee, said Satur­day’s at­tacks showed Iran was not in­ter­ested in peace and was in­stead pur­su­ing nu­clear weapons and re­gional dom­i­nance.

“It is now time for the U.S. to put on the ta­ble an at­tack on Ira­nian oil re­finer­ies if they con­tinue their provo­ca­tions or in­crease nu­clear en­rich­ment,” Gra­ham said on Twit­ter.

Oth­ers cast doubt on Pom­peo’s allegation­s.

“This is such ir­re­spon­si­ble sim­pli­fi­ca­tion and it’s how we get into dumb wars,” Demo­cratic Sen­a­tor and com­mit­tee mem­ber Chris Mur­phy tweeted. “Iran is back­ing the Houthis and has been a bad ac­tor, but it’s just not as sim­ple as Houthis=Iran.”

Wash­ing­ton’s al­lies overseas will want to see solid ev­i­dence of Iran’s in­volve­ment, said Suzanne Maloney, a Mid­dle East expert at the Brook­ings In­sti­tu­tion think tank in Wash­ing­ton.

“It’s cred­i­ble that the Ira­ni­ans had some­thing to do with this,” said Maloney. “We’ll have to wait and see how they’ll (the ad­min­is­tra­tion) mar­shal the ev­i­dence.”

Satur­day’s at­tacks fol­low ear­lier cross-bor­der at­tacks on Saudi oil in­stal­la­tions and on oil tankers in Gulf wa­ters.

Saudi Ara­bia, which leads a Sunni Mus­lim coali­tion that in­ter­vened in Ye­men in 2015 against the Houthis, has blamed re­gional ri­val Shi’ite Iran for pre­vi­ous at­tacks. Tehran has de­nied the allegation­s. Riyadh also ac­cuses Iran of arm­ing the Houthis, a charge de­nied both by the group and Tehran.

The White House said the United States was com­mit­ted to keep­ing oil mar­kets well-sup­plied in the wake of the at­tack and the U.S. En­ergy Depart­ment said the ad­min­is­tra­tion could re­lease oil from strate­gic re­serves if nec­es­sary.

The at­tacks on the two fa­cil­i­ties cut Saudi Ara­bia’s crude oil sup­ply by around 5.7 mil­lion bar­rels per day or about 50 per­cent of its out­put.

Reuters-Yon­hap

Smoke is seen fol­low­ing a fire at Aramco fa­cil­ity in the east­ern city of Abqaiq, Saudi Ara­bia, Satur­day.

AP-Yon­hap

This Sept. 14 satel­lite im­age shows thick black smoke ris­ing from Saudi Aramco’s Abqaiq oil pro­cess­ing fa­cil­ity in Buqyaq, Saudi Ara­bia.

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