WASHINGTON DC (Kurdistan 24) – US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo denounced the Iranian attack on Saudi oil facilities as an “act of war” on Wednesday, as he spoke in Jeddah, before meeting there with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
“The Secretary and the Crown Prince agreed” that the “recent attacks by Iran” against Saudi oil facilities were “unacceptable and unprecedented” and “not only threatened Saudi Arabian national security, but also endangered the lives of all the American citizens living and working” in the country, “as well as the world’s energy supply,” a US read-out of their meeting explained.
Also on Wednesday, Saudi military spokesman, Turki al-Maliki, gave an unusual press briefing, in English, to an international press corps. Standing before an array of drone and cruise missile wreckage, he charged that Iran had been responsible for Saturday’s attacks.
Maliki’s briefing marked the first time that a Saudi official publicly stated, clearly and unequivocally, that Iran was behind the attacks.
An hour later, Yahya Saria, a military spokesman for the Houthis, the Iranian-backed rebel group in Yemen, which claimed responsibility for the attacks, appeared on camera to read a statement in Arabic.
Saria rejected Maliki’s claim that the drones and cruise missiles that carried out the attacks came from the north, and not from Yemen, to the south, while he also threatened the United Arab Emirates (UAE.)
“Today and for the first time we announce that we have dozens of targets within our range in the UAE, some are in Abu Dhabi and can be attacked at any time,” Saria said.
Pompeo is in Abu Dhabi on Thursday, where he is meeting with the UAE’s Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Zayed.
Iranian President Hasan Rouhani continued to claim that the Houthis were responsible for the attacks, as he told a cabinet meeting on Wednesday the strikes were “a warning” to Riyadh to end its intervention in Yemen.
However, US President Donald Trump struck a restrained tone, telegraphing his aversion to a military response to the attacks on Saudi oil facilities. Rather, Trump has opted to impose new economic penalties.
“I have just instructed the Secretary of the Treasury to substantially increase Sanctions on the country of Iran!,” Trump tweeted on Wednesday morning.
I have just instructed the Secretary of the Treasury to substantially increase Sanctions on the country of Iran!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 18, 2019
Later in the day, speaking to journalists, Trump reaffirmed his intent to impose “very significant sanctions.” But when asked abut a military strike, he demurred, “We’ll see what happens.”
Trump’s stand is causing unease in some significant quarters. “Sanctions so far haven’t worked, and I doubt they ever will,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R, South Carolina) said on Wednesday. “So I think an appropriate military response is in order.”
Graham is an important Trump ally on Capitol Hill, but he suggested that Iran had taken Trump’s “measured response” to the downing of a US drone last June as “a sign of weakness.”
Amb. John Bolton, Trump’s national security adviser until ten days ago, was scathing at a private lunch at New York’s Gatestone Institute. Bolton once headed the institute, and the lunch had been scheduled long in advance.
Bolton explained that after Iran shot down the US drone, it was decided to respond with a military strike, Politico reported. That had gone through the full decision-making process, and everyone in the White House had agreed on it.
However, Trump changed his mind after speaking with Fox News host Tucker Carlson and others. “A high authority, at the very last minute,” without telling anyone, decided not to do it, Bolton said.
Among the risks that Trump, the US, and its allies now face is that the Iranians, and maybe even others, will conclude that Trump is not prepared to respond meaningfully to aggression, and they will continue, if not accelerate, hostile actions.
Indeed, in his comments on Wednesday, Sen. Graham warned that the Iranians “are clearly not going to stop until they pay a heavier price.”
Editing by Nadia Riva