WASHINGTON DC (Kurdistan 24) – US officials have concluded that the strikes on Saudi oil facilities early Saturday morning originated, at least in part, in Iran.
Their conclusion contravenes claims Yemen’s Houthi rebels made that they were solely responsible for the attacks, which they said involved 10 drones launched from territory they control.
The US rejected part of the Houthis’ claim already on Saturday, as US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo blamed Iran for the assaults, as he tweeted, “There is no evidence the attacks came from Yemen.”
On Monday, The Wall Street Journal added a new dimension to the story, as it reported that US officials now say intelligence “indicates that Iran was the staging ground” for the attacks.
The US has shared that intelligence with Saudi Arabia, the Journal continued.
Earlier on Monday, a Saudi military spokesperson had affirmed in a televised news conference that the weapons were Iranian, and the attacks did not originate in Yemen. However, he did not identify from where the assault was launched.
US and Saudi authorities both say the attack involved cruise missiles, the Journal reported. Somewhat later on Monday, The Washington Post added yet another wrinkle: some weapons were launched from Iran and some from Yemen, seeming to suggest the cruise missiles came from Iran and the drones from Yemen.
“If that is so,” Col. Norvell DeAtkine (US Army, Retired), who long taught the Middle East at Fort Bragg, said, “it speaks to a highly coordinated attack.”
“The Iranians could do it,” DeAtkine told Kurdistan 24, “but it’s not easy” to make different weapons systems, coming from different places, hit a target at roughly the same time. “If that is what happened,” DeAtkine continued, “almost certainly, Iran had military advisers in Yemen.”
Early media reports speculated the attack on the Saudi oil facilities might have come from southern Iraq. Pompeo and Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul Mahdi then spoke on Sunday. According to a report from Abdul Mahdi’s office, Pompeo assured the Iraqi prime minister the assault was not launched from Iraq.
Numerous media reports subsequently cited anonymous US sources as saying the weapons were not launched from Iraq. However, it may be noteworthy that, so far, no US official has stated, on the record, that none of the weapons fired at Saudi Arabia came from Iraq.
The State Department, unusually, has issued no read-out of the discussion between Pompeo and Abdul Mahdi, and when Kurdistan 24 asked the department on Monday for comment on the prime minister’s claim that Iraqi territory had not been used to attack Saudi Arabia, it declined to do so.
Saturday’s strikes knocked out half of Saudi oil production, taking five percent of world production off the market—some 5.7 million barrels per day. On Monday, oil prices rose nearly 10 percent.
CNN described Saturday’s attack as the biggest oil export disruption in history, surpassing that caused by the Iranian revolution (1978-9), the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait (1990-91), and the 1973 Arab oil embargo, which accompanied the Arab-Israeli war.
It remains unclear how the US will respond to the assault. On Sunday, US President Donald Trump tweeted that we “are locked and loaded,” before adding, “are waiting to hear from the Kingdom as to who they believe was the cause of this attack, and under what terms we would proceed!”
On Monday, following a meeting between Trump and his national security team, US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper tweeted, “The United States military, with our interagency team, is working with our partners to address this unprecedented attack and defend the international rules-based order that is being undermined by Iran.”
Subsequently, Trump was asked, “Would a lethal US military strike be a proportional response to an attack on oil facilities?” He responded, “I would say yes.”
Yet prominent voices in Washington are urging caution. They include Defense Department officials, The Washington Post reported, who seek “to defuse tensions they believe could push the United States into a possibly bloody conflict with Iran at a time when the Pentagon is seeking to wind down insurgent wars in the Middle East and reorient toward competition with China.”
Still, as DeAtkine cautioned, “We can’t keep making threats and do nothing.”
Editing by Karzan Sulaivany