Pompeo favors 'peaceful resolution' to Saudi crisis

Marco Green
September 20, 2019

President Donald Trump said there are avenues other than war that can be employed to punish Iran, which the United States blamed for recent attacks on Saudi Arabian oil facilities.

They appeared to be aimed directly at U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who while on a trip to the region earlier referred to Saturday's attack in Saudi Arabia as an "act of war".

Earlier, in a letter handed over to the USA interest section in the Swiss embassy inTehran, the Iranian Foreign Ministry warned against possible military action by America.

A Saudi military officer walks by what was described as the remains of Iranian cruise missiles and drones used in an attack this weekend.

Pompeo, who was in the United Arab Emirates, dismissed Zarif's remarks, saying: "I was here (doing) active diplomacy while the foreign minister of Iran is threatening all-out war to fight to the last American".

Proof of Iranian responsibility, and evidence that the attack was launched from Iranian territory, could pressure Riyadh and Washington, which want to curb Iranian influence in the region, into a response.

In some ways, Trump's actions have borne this Iranian strategy out; after Iran struck tankers and shot down a USA drone in June, for instance, Trump merely zeroed in on Iran's nuclear and missile programs in talks, ignoring other aspects of Iran's regional strategy that he originally castigated.

A Number 10 spokesman said: "The Prime Minister spoke to President Trump this afternoon following Saturday's attacks on the Aramco oil facilities in Saudi Arabia".

Iran denies involvement in the September 14 attack that initially halved Saudi oil output and which Pompeo earlier called an "act of war" against the world's largest oil exporter.

"We're constantly assessing the region and the environment but we do not have any announcements to make at this time in terms of any type of force adjustment or posture increase", he said.

The UAE, Saudi Arabia's main partner in the Western-backed, Sunni Muslim coalition fighting in Yemen, has scaled down its military presence there as rising Iran tensions risk a war in the Gulf and as Western allies pressed for an end to the war. United Nations officials monitoring sanctions on Iran and Yemen are also helping probe the attack, which exposed gaps in Saudi air defences despite billions spent on Western military hardware.

In an attempt to clear Iran from the charges of involvement, some Iranian journalists have tweeted that Houthi rebels are going to have a news conference later in which they will say they have launched the attack from inside Saudi soil after a 100 kilometer penetration.

An worldwide inquiry is under way, with the United Nations saying on Thursday experts had arrived in the kingdom and begun their mission "at the invitation of the Saudi authorities".

"The attack was launched from the north and unquestionably sponsored by Iran", Saudi Colonel Turki al-Malki said.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian similarly was skeptical of the Houthi claim of responsibility.

"This is not very credible, relatively speaking", he told CNews television on Thursday. "If an action takes place against Iran, Tehran will react immediately, and Iran's reaction will not be limited to where the threat has originated from", Official news agency IRNA cited from the letter.

Pompeo said the attacks would be a major focus of next week's annual U.N. General Assembly meeting and suggested Riyadh could make its case there.

The U.N. meeting had been considered as an opportunity for direct talks between Rouhani and Trump.

Judith Miller, adjunct fellow at the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, Pulitzer-winning journalist and Fox News contributor said the Saudis knew they were not able to defeat Iran in a full-blown conflict. "If it was up to me, I'd let them come". "That's the real question, why does it always have to be the U.S.?" But as tensions have risen, the USA has put increasing restrictions on Iranians like Zarif.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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