Saudi Arabia’s government on Wednesday produced what it called “material evidence” it says proves Iran was responsible for coordinated attacks at two Saudi oil-producing areas last weekend — putting on display the burned remains of mechanical drones and cruise missiles.
Saudi Defense Ministry spokesman Col. Turki al-Maliki revealed the remnants at a news conference, and said they “unquestionably” prove Tehran was at the very least complicit in the strikes.
Al-Maliki said 25 drones and missiles were used to hit the Khurais oil field and an oil processing plant in Abqaiq on Saturday. They included delta wing drones and Ya Ali cruise missiles, which he said are both built in Iran and used by its Revolutionary Guard Corps.
Al-Maliki said, however, it is still unknown precisely where the actual strikes originated. The Saudi ambassador to Britain said earlier Wednesday he was nearly certain Tehran was responsible.
The attacks caused substantial damage to the oil-producing areas and wiped out about 5 percent of the daily Saudi production. The cost of oil this week surged as a result.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo traveled to Saudi Arabia Wednesday to meet with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Jeddah to “coordinate efforts to counter Iranian aggression in the region,” the U.S. Mission to the United Arab Emirates said. A short time later, U.S. President Donald Trump ordered more punitive measures.
“I have just instructed the secretary of the Treasury to substantially increase sanctions on the country of Iran!” Trump tweeted. “So nice that our country is now energy independent. The USA is in better shape than ever before.”
The United States has ratcheted up sanctions on Iran for more than a year since withdrawing from the 2015 nuclear agreement.
Before landing in Jeddah, Pompeo described the attack on the oil installations as an “act of war.”
“We were blessed that there were no Americans killed in this attack, but any time you have an act of war of this nature, there’s always risk that that could happen,” he told reporters on the flight to Jeddah. “This is an attack of a scale we’ve just not seen before.”
He also described the incident as “an Iranian attack.”
“It’s not the case that you can subcontract out the devastation of 5 percent of the world’s global energy supply and think that you can absolve yourself from responsibility,” Pompeo added.
“Were it the case that the Houthis’ fraudulent claim was accurate, were that true — it’s not, but were that true, it doesn’t change the fingerprints of the Ayatollah as having put at risk the global energy supply,” he said, referring to Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Initially after the attack, the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen claimed responsibility for the strikes. Pompeo, citing the intelligence community, said the rebels didn’t have access to the weapons used, and accused the Houthis of lying and only operating under the direction of Iran.
Earlier Wednesday, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani rejected the U.S. and Saudi accusations.
“While exerting psychological and economic pressure on the Iranian people [through sanctions], they want to impose maximum … pressure on Iran through slander,” he said on state-run television. “Meanwhile, no one believes these accusations.”
“If a threat is posed to Iran, there will be the same decisiveness with which we responded [in June] to the American drone’s minimal incursion,” Iranian Defense Minister Amir Hatami said, emphasizing a claim by Houthi rebels in Yemen that they carried out the attacks. “It’s pretty clear: There has been a conflict between two countries [Yemen and Saudi Arabia]. One party to the conflict is the Yemenis, who have said explicitly that they have done this.”
The U.S. State Department warned American citizens to “exercise increased caution” if traveling to Saudi Arabia, “due to terrorism and the threat of missile and drone attacks on civilian targets.” It advised Americans not to travel anywhere within 50 miles of Saudi Arabia’s border with Yemen. U.S. mission personnel and their families are also prohibited from using the airport in Abha, which is frequently attacked by drones and missiles.
ByNicholas Sakelaris & Danielle Haynes