Saudi oil attacks came from southwest Iran, US official says, raising tensions

Saudi oil

The United States believes the attacks that crippled Saudi Arabian oil facilities last weekend originated in southwestern Iran, a US official told Reuters on Tuesday, an assessment that further increases tension in the Middle East, Reuters reports.

Three officials, speaking to Reuters on condition of anonymity, said the attacks involved both cruise missiles and drones, indicating that they involved a higher degree of complexity and sophistication than initially thought.

The officials did not provide evidence or explain what US intelligence they were using for the evaluations. Such intelligence, if shared publicly, could further pressure Washington, Riyadh, and others to respond, perhaps even militarily.

Saudi state television said the Saudi Defence Ministry will hold a media conference on Wednesday that will show evidence of Iran’s involvement in the Aramco attacks, including the use of Iranian weapons.

Iran denies involvement in the strikes. Iran’s allies in Yemen’s civil war, the Houthi movement, claimed responsibility for the attacks. The Houthis say they struck the plants with drones, some of which were powered by jet engines.

US President Donald Trump on Monday said it looked as if Iran – which has a long history of friction with neighbor Saudi Arabia – was behind the attacks.

But in a sign that US allies remain unconvinced, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said he was unsure if anyone had any evidence to say whether drones “came from one place or another.”

Saudi Arabia sought to reassure markets after the attack on Saturday halved oil output, saying on Tuesday that full production would be restored by month’s end.

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Tuesday ruled out talks with the United States unless the Trump administration returns to the nuclear accord between Iran and the West that the United States abandoned last year.

“Iranian officials, at any level, will never talk to American officials … this is part of their policy to put pressure on Iran,” Iranian state TV quoted him as saying.

Trump on Tuesday said he is not looking to meet Iranian President Hassan Rouhani during a UN event in New York this month.

Saudi Arabia has asked international experts to join its investigation, which indicates the attacks did not come from Yemen, the Saudi foreign ministry said.

One of the three US officials expressed confidence that Saudi Arabia’s collection of materials following the attacks would yield “compelling forensic evidence … that will point to where this attack came from.”

A US team is helping Saudi Arabia evaluate evidence from the attacks, which hit crucial facilities of Saudi state-owned oil company Aramco in Abqaiq and Khurais and initially cut Saudi oil production in half.

The Saudi energy minister said on Tuesday that the kingdom will achieve 11 million barrels per day (bpd) capacity by the end of September.

Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman also told a news conference that the world’s top oil exporter would keep full oil supplies to customers this month.

He said Saudi Arabia would keep its role as the secure supplier of global oil markets, adding that the kingdom needed to take strict measures to prevent further attacks, which exposed the vulnerability of Saudi Arabia’s oil industry and the broader global economy.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the Iran nuclear pact, which European parties are trying to salvage, is one building block “we need to get back to”.

Saudi Arabia, which has supported tougher US sanctions on Iran, said an initial investigation showed the strikes were carried out with Iranian weapons.

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