Monday, 16 September 2019 05:14

'No Doubt' Iran Responsible for Saudi Oil Attack, Top US Official Says

There is "no doubt" Iran was responsible for the drone attack on key Saudi Arabian oil fields, a senior U.S. official said Sunday.

"No matter how you slice it, there's no escaping it," the official told Reuters. "There's no other candidate. Evidence points in no other direction than that Iran was responsible for this."

The official said the precision of the attack suggests it did not come from the south, from the direction of Yemen and the Houthi rebels, despite the Houthis claiming responsibility.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had earlier tweeted there is no evidence the drones came from Yemen.

"Amid all the calls for de-escalation, Iran has now launched an unprecedented attack on the world's energy supply," he wrote.

Iran calls the charges it was behind the attack "maximum lies."

Some Iraqi media said the drones came from Iraq, which is closer to the Saudi oil production facilities than Yemen. Baghdad denies it was the launch site and vows to punish anyone who uses its territory for attacks.

A number of drones attacked Saudi Arabia's Abqaiq plant and the Khurais oil fields before dawn Saturday, causing a massive fire. Huge plumes of heavy black smoke could easily be seen by satellites.

The Saudis say no one was killed or injured in the airstrikes. But they say the destruction will severely cut into the country's daily output of 5.7 million barrels of oil per day – close to 6% of the world's daily production.

Saudi officials are scrambling to restore operations and say they would tap into the country’s reserves to keep deliveries coming.

U.S. President Donald Trump has authorized the release of oil from the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve "if needed in a soon to be determined amount sufficient to keep the markets well supplied,' he tweeted Sunday.

Crude oil prices surged more than 18% when trading began Sunday night.

The Saudi embassy in Washington said President Trump assured Saudi Prince Mohammed bin Salman in a phone call that the U.S. is ready to help Riyadh to protect its security.

The Iranian-backed Houthi rebels seized the Yemeni capital of Sana's in 2014, sending the Yemeni government into temporary exile in Saudi Arabia.

A Saudi-led coalition has lunched a series of airstrikes against the Houthis, but the attacks have also thousands of civilians, obliterating entire neighborhoods and wiping out hospitals in a country suffering from severe food shortages and a cholera epidemic.

The Houthis have responded to the airstrikes with a number of drones strikes on Saudi territory.

A Houthi military spokesman dubbed the attacks on the Saudi oil fields "Operation Balance of Terror." He said they were a response to what he called the "ongoing crimes of blockade and aggression on Yemen."

Saudi Arabia has accused Iran of arming the rebels -- a charge it denies and many Middle East observers say the fighting in Yemen is actually a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran, with Yemeni civilians suffering the most.

The U.S. has provided intelligence and support to the coalition and weapon sales to the Saudis. Congress tried but failed to cut off Trump administration’s backing of the coalition.


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