US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday described raids on key Saudi oil installations as an “act of war” and reiterated that it was an “Iranian attack”, an allegation Tehran denies.
Pompeo, who made the comments to reporters on his plane before landing in Saudi Arabia’s Jeddah, is due to meet Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) and other officials, as the allies discuss their responses to Saturday’s attacks on the world’s biggest crude processing facility that initially knocked out half of the Saudi production.
Iran has repeatedly denied it was behind the strikes.
But Saudi and US officials have said that evidence shows Iranian involvement.
Just before Pompeo’s comments, Saudi military officials held a news conference and showed debris from the alleged weapons used during the attacks, saying there was “undeniable” evidence of Iranian aggression.
A defence ministry spokesman said there was no way the strikes could have been launched from Yemen.
“The attack was launched from the north and unquestionably sponsored by Iran,” Saudi Colonel Turki al-Malki said. “We are working to know the exact launch point.”
Al-Malki did not directly blame Iran for the attack when asked by journalists. He said once “the culprits” were identified they would “be held accountable”.
Trump and Saudi officials have stressed the need for caution in their response to the attacks. Trump has said he does not want war and is coordinating with Gulf and European states.
Earlier on Wednesday, Trump said he ordered a major increase in sanctions on Iran, but gave no details.
It is not clear what Pompeo’s comments on Wednesday meant for the US response to the attacks.
US media, citing unnamed US officials, reported on Tuesday that evidence showed Saturday’s attacks originated in southwestern Iran.
Three officials said they involved cruise missiles and drones, indicating a higher degree of complexity and sophistication than initially thought. The US has not made its evidence public
The officials also did not provide evidence or explain what US intelligence they were using for evaluating the attack, which cut five percent of global production.
The new violence has led to fears that further action on any side could rapidly escalate a confrontation that has been raging just below the surface in the wider region in recent months.
Last month, Trump called off a military attack on Iran at the last minute after Tehran downed an unmanned US military drone. Iran maintains the drone was in Iranian airspace. The US says it was in international territory.
Those tensions have been boiling since Trump pulled the US out of Iran’s 2015 agreement with world powers that curtailed Iranian nuclear activities, and reimposed sanctions that sent Iran’s economy into freefall.
SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies