President Donald Trump warned the US was “locked and loaded” to respond to attacks on Saudi oil infrastructure that Washington blamed on Iran.
It is the first time the president has hinted at a potential American military response to the drone attacks, which slashed Saudi oil production by half and led both the kingdom and the United States to announce they may tap their strategic reserves.
From its beginnings in 1938 when it first struck oil with the aptly named “Prosperity Well,” Saudi Arabia’s national energy giant Aramco has delivered unimaginable riches to the desert kingdom. It has since grown into the world’s largest and most profitable energy concern, generating 10 percent of global crude supplies and trillions of dollars in income. However, it has been hit in recent months by a string of serious attacks on its oil facilities, the latest on Saturday halting the flow of 5.7 million barrels of oil per day, over half of its output, in drone strikes.
“Saudi Arabia oil supply was attacked. There is reason to believe that we know the culprit, are locked and loaded depending on verification, but 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!” Trump tweeted.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo pointed the finger squarely at Tehran, saying there was no evidence the “unprecedented attack on the world’s energy supply” was launched from Yemen.
That drew an angry response from Tehran, where foreign ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said: “Such fruitless and blind accusations and remarks are incomprehensible and meaningless.”
The White House said on Sunday that Trump may still meet Iran President Hassan Rouhani at the UN meeting in New York next week, but Tehran said Monday it did not think “such a thing would happen.”
Baghdad, caught between its two main allies—Tehran and Washington—also denied any link to the attacks amid media speculation that the drones were launched from Iraq.
Saudi de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has said the kingdom is “willing and able” to respond to this “terrorist aggression.”
But a tit-for-tat strike on Iranian oil fields is “highly unlikely,” Middle East expert James Dorsey told AFP.
“The Saudis do not want an open conflict with Iran. The Saudis would like others to fight that war, and the others are reluctant,” said Dorsey, from the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore.
Tehran and Washington have been at loggerheads since May last year when Trump pulled the US out of a landmark 2015 deal with world powers that promised Iran relief from sanctions in return for curbs on its nuclear program.
Saudi Arabia has spent billions on military hardware but recent events have underscored the vulnerability of its infrastructure to attack.
READ: Drone hits spark fires at Aramco oil depotsREAD: Oil price upsurge seen at P1.3/liter
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