Trump Opts for Sanctions Over Strikes in Response to Iran

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo meets with Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman in Jeddah on Wednesday. — Reuters

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo meets with Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman in Jeddah on Wednesday. — Reuters

While the actor responsible for the air attacks on two Saudi Aramco facilities, Abqaiq and Khurais, is still being debated, with allegations ranging from Yemen's Houthis to Iran, one fact is clear: the supply of Middle Eastern oil has been weaponised.

U.S. President Donald Trump said on Wednesday he had ordered his Treasury Secretary to "substantially increase sanctions" imposed on Iran, in the wake of an attack on Saudi oil facilities that some U.S. officials have blamed on Tehran.

Trump's order came as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo traveled Wednesday to Jeddah to meet with Saudi officials on how to respond to the attack that knocked out half of the Saudis' oil production, a hit that temporarily cut almost 6% of the global oil supply.

The US blames Iran for the attack, though the Iran-backed Houthis in Yemen took responsibility.

Earlier in Tehran, Rouhani told his Cabinet that Saudi Arabia should see the weekend attack as a warning to end its war in Yemen, where it has fought the Houthi rebels since 2015 and sought to restore the internationally recognised government. "They attacked an industrial site to warn you", Rouhani said. Tehran has said its delegation could call off a trip to NY if the USA does not issue visas for his delegation "in the next few hours", Iran's state-run ISNA news reported Wednesday afternoon.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is greeted by Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman in Jeddah on Wednesday. — Reuters
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is greeted by Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman in Jeddah on Wednesday. — Reuters

In a statement Wednesday, Saudi Arabia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the weapons used in the attack were "Iranian".

The other thing they're doing is, they're sending the message that they're not going to be the passive recipients of USA pressure, economic pressure, which they consider to be economic warfare.

"The Saudis are directly supporting the very terrorist group that attacked us on 9/11 and that continue to pose a threat to the American people today!"

White House national security officials briefed Trump on what Secretary of Defense Mark Esper called an "unprecedented attack" on production at Aramco, Saudi Arabia's flagship oil company, which USA officials believed involved explosives-laden drones and possibly cruise missiles.

Those tensions have been boiling since Trump pulled the USA out of Iran's 2015 agreement with world powers that curtailed Iranian nuclear activities, and reimposed sanctions that sent Iran's economy into freefall. It is obvious that whatever the precise nature of the strike, Iran likely played a role in both creating the drones and/or cruise missiles involved and in the strategic rationale for it.

Attaques en Arabie : débris de "missiles" et Pompeo à Riyad
L'armée du Koweït a ordonné mercredi à ses troupes de renforcer "leur préparation au combat" "face à l'escalade de la situation". Le voyage du président iranien "pourrait être annulé" faute de visas délivrés par les États-Unis, a dit Irna mercredi.

A Saudi military officer walks by what was described as the remains of Iranian cruise missiles and drones used in an attack this weekend that targeted Saudi Arabia's oil industry.

The weapons were of Iranian origin but Saudi Arabia was still working to pinpoint the exact launch point, he said.

Diplomats at the United Nations said experts were expected in the kingdom to lead an worldwide inquiry.

In a spirited battle on Fox News, Neil Cavuto pressed Gabbard for her recent comments - among which she stated that the president is turning the US into "Saudi Arabia's bitch".

One US official told Reuters the attacks originated in south-west Iran.

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There is speculation that the strike on Abqaiq was a retaliation for the airstrikes on the Iraqi al-Hashd al-Sha'abi militia installations this month by Israelis, alleged to have been "coordinated and financed by Saudi Arabia".

Trump said he is not looking to meet Rouhani during a United Nations event in NY this month.

IRNA separately reported that Iran's first delegation for the annual United Nations event had not left Tehran due to not having visas. Iran is gradually scaling back its commitments under the deal and has said it will not reopen talks without sanctions relief.

At first glance, it might appear that both the U.S. and Saudi Arabia have no incentive to defuse the situation, as they have much to gain financially.

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