Iran de­nies at­tacks on oil fa­cil­i­ties

Trump says the US is ‘locked and loaded’ for pos­si­ble re­tal­ia­tory strike

The Morning Call - - FRONT PAGE - By Kareem Fahim, Erin Cun­ning­ham and Steven Mufson

IS­TAN­BUL — Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump said Sun­day that the United States was pre­pared to re­spond to the dev­as­tat­ing at­tacks on two oil in­stal­la­tions in Saudi Ara­bia that halved the state oil com­pany’s pro­duc­tion out­put, while Iran re­jected U.S. ac­cu­sa­tions that it was re­spon­si­ble.

“There is rea­son to be­lieve that we know the cul­prit,” Trump said in a tweet Sun­day evening. He said the United States was “locked and loaded de­pend­ing on ver­i­fi­ca­tion.”

Trump did not name Iran, as Sec­re­tary of State Mike Pom­peo had on Satur­day, nor spec­ify whether he was con­tem­plat­ing a mil­i­tary re­sponse. He said he was wait­ing to hear from the Saudis on “who they be­lieve was the cause of this at­tack, and un­der what terms we would pro­ceed!”

His ad­min­is­tra­tion was con­tem­plat­ing what U.S. of­fi­cials char­ac­ter­ized as a se­ri­ous

mil­i­tary re­sponse, though some in the Pen­tagon were said to be urg­ing re­straint. The of­fi­cials spoke on the con­di­tion of anonymity to dis­cuss in­ter­nal de­lib­er­a­tions. Trump met with De­fense Sec­re­tary Mark Esper on Sun­day af­ter­noon.

Oil fu­tures jumped Sun­day evening as mar­kets opened for the first time since the at­tacks. The price of Brent crude surged 18 per­cent be­fore fall­ing back to 12 per­cent; the U.S. bench­mark West Texas in­ter­me­di­ate climbed 12 per­cent be­fore eas­ing to a 10 per­cent gain. Trump said he had au­tho­rized the re­lease of oil from strate­gic re­serves, “if needed,” to blunt the mar­ket im­pact of the at­tacks.

The at­tacks on Satur­day could up­end Trump’s hopes for new U.S.-Iran ne­go­ti­a­tions, an ef­fort in which he has faced op­po­si­tion from close ally Israel and many of his own hawk­ish for­eign pol­icy aides. Trump said last week that he would not rule out a per­sonal meet­ing with Ira­nian Pres­i­dent Has­san Rouhani this month.

The Houthis, a rebel group in Ye­men al­lied with Iran, had claimed re­spon­si­bil­ity for the at­tacks Satur­day, say­ing it had sent a fleet of drones to­ward the Aramco fa­cil­i­ties in east­ern Saudi Ara­bia. Within hours later, Sec­re­tary of State Mike Pom­peo blamed Iran di­rectly for what he called “an un­prece­dented at­tack on the world’s en­ergy sup­ply.”

There was “no ev­i­dence the at­tacks came from Ye­men,” Pom­peo said in a tweet. His com­ments, along with a U.S. gov­ern­ment dam­age assess­ment of one of the stricken oil fa­cil­i­ties that sug­gested the at­tack might not have come from Ye­men, fed spec­u­la­tion that the strikes had been launched from Iran, or by Tehran’s al­lies in neigh­bor­ing Iraq.

Saudi Ara­bia, which said on Satur­day it was still prob­ing the source of the at­tack, re­mained silent on Sun­day about the pos­si­ble cul­prit. Me­dia out­lets in Kuwait, which sits be­tween Iraq and Saudi Ara­bia, re­ported Sun­day that of­fi­cials were in­ves­ti­gat­ing a drone sight­ing over the coun­try, deep­en­ing the mys­tery.

The pos­si­bil­ity that Iran had played a di­rect role in an at­tack on Saudi Ara­bia’s oil in­fra­struc­ture un­nerved a re­gion al­ready reel­ing from mul­ti­ple con­flicts: a war in Ye­men, a feud be­tween Qatar and its neigh­bors and a con­fronta­tion be­tween the United States and Iran.

The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion has made iso­lat­ing Iran a cen­ter­piece of its for­eign pol­icy. The ad­min­is­tra­tion with­drew from the 2015 nu­clear deal Tehran struck with world pow­ers and im­posed eco­nomic sanctions and an em­bargo on oil ex­ports.

The United States blamed Iran for a spate of mys­te­ri­ous at­tacks on com­mer­cial tankers in the Per­sian Gulf re­gion; In June, Ira­nian forces shot down a U.S. Navy spy drone.

The in­ci­dent nearly prompted a U.S. coun­ter­strike — an op­er­a­tion Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump said he called off at the last minute.

A se­nior Kuwaiti diplo­mat said his gov­ern­ment was “ex­tremely con­cerned” about the re­gion’s sta­bil­ity in the wake of the at­tack. The diplo­mat, who spoke on the con­di­tion of anonymity be­cause he was not au­tho­rized to speak to the me­dia, did not say whether Kuwait be­lieved Iran was di­rectly in­volved.

The at­tack on Aramco “aimed to dis­rupt oil mar­kets world­wide and to un­der­mine re­gional sta­bil­ity,” he said. “It’s a very dan­ger­ous pe­riod in the gulf re­gion.”

Of­fi­cials in Iran and Iraq pushed back force­fully against al­le­ga­tions the at­tacks had come from their ter­ri­to­ries.

“Hav­ing failed at ‘max pres­sure,’” Ira­nian For­eign Min­is­ter Mo­ham­mad Javad Zarif tweeted, Pom­peo was now “turn­ing to ‘max de­ceit.’”

Iraq’s prime min­is­ter, Adel Ab­dul Mahdi, de­nied the strikes had been launched from his coun­try. He said his gov­ern­ment would “deal firmly” with any­one try­ing to at­tack neigh­bor­ing coun­tries from Iraq.

Houthi spokesman Mo­hammed Al­bukhaiti re­it­er­ated the group’s claim that it had car­ried out the strikes.

“We con­firm that the Ye­meni forces are the ones who hit the oil fields, and ev­ery­one knows our cred­i­bil­ity, in ev­ery at­tack we an­nounce,” he said in a tele­phone in­ter­view.

“We don’t need to pro­vide ev­i­dence,” he added, and pointed out that Pom­peo had not pro­vided any proof that strikes had come from Iran or Iraq.

NASA WORLD­VIEW

A satel­lite im­age shows fires af­ter a drone strike on two ma­jor oil in­stal­la­tions in east­ern Saudi Ara­bia.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.