Pompeo: Saudi Oil Attacks an ‘Act of War’ by Iran, not Yemen Rebels

SOURCE: (Fox News)

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo described the weekend bombing on Saudi oil facilities as an “act of war” and called it an “Iranian attack” on one of the world’s largest oil processing facilities.

Pompeo, speaking from Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, on Wednesday, said that even if the “fraudulent claims” of responsibility by the Yemen Houthi rebels were true, “it doesn’t change the fingerprints of the Ayatollah as having put at risk the global energy supply.”

His comments come hours after President Trump tweeted that he had ordered Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to “substantially increase sanctions” on Iran, amid escalating tensions between the two countries.

Earlier this week, Trump said it was “looking like” Iran was responsible for the bombing but did not publically accuse Tehran of the attack.

“Well, it’s looking that way,” the president told reporters at the White House on Monday when asked if Iran was responsible. “We’ll let you know definitively.” He added: “That’s being checked out right now.”

Iran, who has repeatedly denied involvement in the bombings, warned Wednesday that it would “immediately” retaliate against the United States if Tehran is targeted over a crippling weekend attack on Saudi oil facilities.

The threat, which was sent via the Swiss Embassy in Tehran, also condemned previous remarks made by Secretary Pompeo and other high-ranking U.S. officials suggesting Iran was behind the move.

Earlier this week, Trump said it was “looking like” Iran was responsible for the bombing but did not publically accuse Tehran of the attack.

“Well, it’s looking that way,” the president told reporters at the White House on Monday when asked if Iran was responsible. “We’ll let you know definitively.” He added: “That’s being checked out right now.”

Iran, who has repeatedly denied involvement in the bombings, warned Wednesday that it would “immediately” retaliate against the United States if Tehran is targeted over a crippling weekend attack on Saudi oil facilities.

The threat, which was sent via the Swiss Embassy in Tehran, also condemned previous remarks made by Secretary Pompeo and other high-ranking U.S. officials suggesting Iran was behind the move.

“Iran’s response will be prompt and strong, and it may include broader areas than the source of attacks,” Iran’s Mehr News Agency reported.

Tehran’s Fars News Agency added that any response would be “rapid and crushing.”

Meanwhile, Saudi officials alleged on Wednesday that Iranian cruise missiles and drones were behind the attack on Sunday, showing journalists remains of the weapons. However, they stopped short of directly accusing Iran of launching the assault.

Saudi military spokesman Col. Turki al-Malki said the attack “came from the north,” without saying specifically where it originated. Iraq and Iran are to the north of Saudi Arabia across the Persian Gulf.

“The attack could not have originated from Yemen,” he said, disputing the claim by Yemen’s Iranian-backed Houthi rebels that they launched the weapons.

Saudi officials said the cruise missile, which had what appeared to be a jet engine attached to it, was a land-attack cruise missile that failed to explode.

“Almost certainly it’s Iranian-backed,” Prince Khalid bin Bandar, Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the United Kingdom, told the BBC. “We are trying not to react too quickly because the last thing we need is more conflict in the region.”

Cmdr. Joshua Frey, a spokesman for the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet, declined to comment on the Saudi announcement, saying it “would be inappropriate to comment on the status of individual nations and the nature of any potential support.”

Iran’s state-run news agency also reported that the country’s president and the foreign minister may not be able to attend next week’s high-level meetings at the United Nations because the U.S. has yet to issue them valid visas.

As the host of the U.N.’s headquarters, the U.S. is mandated to offer world leaders and diplomats visas to attend meetings there. But as tensions have risen, the U.S. has put increasing restrictions on Iranians like Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif. Since becoming Iran’s president in 2013, Hassan Rouhani has spoken each year at the General Assembly.

The U.N. meeting had been viewed as an opportunity for direct talks between Rouhani and Trump amid of a summer of heightened tensions and attacks in the wake of America’s unilateral withdrawal from Iran’s nuclear deal with world powers a year ago.

However, the likelihood of such talks decreased dramatically following the Saudi oil attack, U.S. accusations that Iran was behind it and hardening comments from Iran. Yemen’s Iranian-backed Houthi rebels have claimed the attack was in response to the Saudi-led war in Yemen, which has sparked the world’s worst humanitarian crisis and killed tens of thousands of people.

Iran sent a note through Swiss diplomats in Tehran on Monday, reiterating that Tehran denies being involved in the Saudi attack, IRNA reported. The Swiss have looked after American interests in Tehran for decades.

Pompeo is traveling to Saudi Arabia for meetings after Saturday’s attack, which hit a Saudi oil field and the world’s largest crude oil processing plant.

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