US officials are steadily building a case that Iran struck Saudi oil plants in a bold attack
- The US appears to be steadily building a case against Iran in the wake of devastating strikes on Saudi oil sites over the weekend.
- Despite claims of responsibility from the Houthi rebels in Yemen, the US has blamed Iran.
- US officials have said that there is no evidence the attack came from Yemen as claimed. Officials have released satellite imagery of the targeted oil sites that allegedly indicates Iranian culpability, and the media has been informed that the point of origin for the attacks was Iranian soil.
- US defense officials have also said that satellites captured images of Iran preparing in country for the attack, which is said to have involved drones and cruise missiles.
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The US appears to be steadily building a case against Iran in the wake of devastating strikes on Saudi oil sites over the weekend.
Saudi Arabia's Abqaiq oil processing plant and Khurais oil field were struck Saturday, temporarily crippling oil production. The Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen quickly claimed responsibility for the attack, calling it "one of the largest executed by our forces" in Saudi Arabia.The US, however, has pinned the blame on Iran, and US officials have been telling the media that the attacks, which are said to have involved drones and cruise missiles, were launched from Iran, which has denied any involvement.
"Iran has now launched an unprecedented attack on the world's energy supply," Secretary of State Mike Pompeo stated Saturday without providing evidence to support his claims. He stressed that the US would work to ensure "Iran is held accountable for its aggression."
In his statement, he ruled out an attack emanating from Yemen, saying that "there is no evidence the attacks came from Yemen." The Saudi-led coalition that has been battling the Houthis for years, agreed. Iraq, which is home to Iranian-backed militias, has also been ruled out as a potential launch point for the attacks.
Pompeo, the State Department revealed Tuesday, is traveling to Saudi Arabia to "discuss the recent attack on the Kingdom's oil facilities and coordinate efforts to counter Iranian aggression in the region."
US officials briefed news organizations Sunday, presenting declassified satellite images of the strikes as evidence of Iran's' culpability. Officials said that the direction of the strikes indicates that Iran was responsible for the attacks, a point some observers have criticized.Read more: Trump officials claim that satellite imagery and the direction of the Saudi oil field attack prove that Iran was to blame
"Saudi Arabia oil supply was attacked. There is reason to believe that we know the culprit, are locked and loaded depending on verification," Trump tweeted Sunday, adding that the US is "waiting to hear from the Kingdom as to who they believe was the cause of this attack, and under what terms we would proceed!"
On Tuesday, multiple outlets, citing unnamed US officials, reported that the attacks on Saudi oil sites were likely launched from southern Iran. US and Saudi investigators determined "with very high probability" that the drones and missiles were launched from an Iranian base along the border of Iraq, CNN reported, citing an unnamed source familiar with the situation.
US satellites detected Iran preparing drones and missiles at launch sites prior to this weekend's attacks, NPR reported Tuesday afternoon, citing two US defense officials. The officials called the intelligence "circumstantial evidence" that the Iranians launched the attack from inside their own country.
The US has sent investigators to Saudi Arabia to analyze the wreckage, debris that some experts told NPR could provide "compelling and convincing" evidence of Iran's involvement.
Secretary of Defense Mark Esper and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr. have offered the president several military options, according to The New York Times, but they are calling for a restrained response from the US to these attacks, NBC reports.
"In responding to the greatest attack on the global oil markets in history, I think not rushing to respond and ensuring everybody is on the same page is where we should be," an unnamed US official told Reuters."Do I want war? I don't want war with anybody," Trump told reporters Monday. "We have the strongest military in the world. With all that being said, we'd certainly like to avoid" a conflict, he added.
The president's comments stood in stark contrast to his "locked and loaded" comments the day before. So, while the US appears to be building a case against Iran, it is unclear at this time what the US intends to do about it.
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