U.S. backs Saudi Arabia’s ‘right to defend itself’
Following a meeting with Saudi Arabia’s powerful crown prince, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the United States supports Riyadh’s “right to defend itself” and said Washington would not tolerate Iran’s “threatening behavior.”
“Met with #Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman today to discuss the unprecedented attacks against Saudi Arabia’s oil infrastructure,” Pompeo wrote on Twitter on September 19.
“The U.S. stands with #SaudiArabia and supports its right to defend itself. The Iranian regime’s threatening behavior will not be tolerated.”
Pompeo’s comments and the meeting with the crown prince, known as MBS, came as tensions in the region soared to new heights following a September 14 attack on Saudi Arabia’s largest oil production complex.
Yemen’s Iran-backed Huthi rebels had earlier said they were behind the attack.
But Washington and Riyadh have directly blamed Tehran. Saudi Arabia on Wednesday put on display drone and missile fragments that it said showed the attack was “unquestionably sponsored by Iran.”
Tehran has denied involvement and warned it would retaliate against any attack that targeted Iran as U.S. President Donald Trump said a variety of options, including war, were available as a response.
“There are many options. There’s the ultimate option and there are options that are a lot less than that. And we’ll see,” Trump told reporters in Los Angeles. “I’m saying the ultimate option meaning go in — war.”
Trump also said he ordered the U.S. Treasury to “substantially increase sanctions on the country of Iran!” He told reporters the unspecified economic measures would be revealed within 48 hours.
Trump and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson condemned the attack and discussed in a phone call the need for a united diplomatic response to the incident, the two leaders’ offices said.
The prime minister’s office said they agreed that [Iran] must not be allowed to obtain a nuclear weapon.”
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, meanwhile, said experts from the UN have left for Saudi Arabia to investigate the attacks. He has condemned the attacks, calling them “a dramatic escalation” in the Persian Gulf that must be halted.
Before arriving in Saudi Arabia, Pompeo said the attacks were an Iranian “act of war” and called the Huthi rebels’ claim of responsibility “fraudulent.”
“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 said.
Pompeo said U.S. intelligence experts have “high confidence” the Huthis do not possess the weapons used in the incident.
Riyadh is leading a coalition of Arab states fighting against the Iran-backed Huthi rebels in Yemen.
The latest escalation in tensions has dampened speculation of a possible meeting between Trump and Iranian President Hassan Rohani during a gathering of the UN General Assembly in New York later this month.
Iranian state media reported on September 18 that Rohani and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif may not attend the General Assembly at all unless U.S. visas are issued in the next few hours.
Trump later said that if it were up to him, he would give the two Iranian leaders U.S. visas to attend the UN event.
The United States is required as host country to issue the visas. The State Department said it does not comment on individual cases.