Attacks on Saudi have global consequences: US official

Last Updated 18 September 2019, 02:35 IST

The attacks on Saudi Arabia's oil facilities have global consequences and the UN must play its part to address threats to international peace, a senior Trump administration official has said, as US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo left for Jeddah for talks with the top Saudi leadership.

Saudi Arabia, a key American ally, leads a military coalition that has been battling the Iran-aligned Huthi rebels in Yemen since 2015.

The Huthis claimed responsibility for Saturday's two attacks on Saudi Arabian facilities, which halved oil output in Saudi Arabia, the world's top crude exporter.

After the attacks, US President Donald Trump said the White House believed it knew the culprit of the strikes, and the US military was "locked and loaded" to take action.

"Saudi Arabia has been attacked, which has global consequences. The UN Security Council was created to address threats to international peace and security, and this attack meets that criteria," the senior administration official said as Pompeo headed to Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi in the UAE.

Pompeo will begin his trip to Jeddah, arriving on September 18.

"He will meet with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to discuss the recent attack on the Kingdom's oil facilities and coordinate efforts to counter Iranian aggression in the region," State Department Spokesperson Morgan Ortagus said.

The Secretary will then travel to Abu Dhabi to meet with UAE Prince Mohammed bin Zayed to discuss regional and bilateral issues, she said in a statement.

Some media reports said that the Trump administration was planning a retaliatory action against Iran, as tension escalates in the Middle East in the aftermath of the massive damage to the Saudi oil facilities.

According to the official, the US sees a role for the UN Security Council.

"We do see a role for the UN Security Council to play. Saudi was attacked and it would be appropriate for them to call upon the Council. But we first need to gather the releasable information," said the official who spoke on condition of anonymity.

"Iran has a long history of testing its strength. But they never climb too high up the escalation ladder. At a certain point, when the world says enough, they come back down," the official said in response to a question.

US Defense Secretary Mark Esper said Iran continues to violate international norms and has chosen to promote instability and danger throughout the region.

NBC News reported that the Trump administration was weighing a range of options for retaliatory action against Iran, including a cyberattack or physical strike on Iranian oil facilities or Revolutionary Guard assets.

In a national security meeting on Monday, US military leaders provided Trump with a menu of possible actions against Iran.

"But the president, seeking a narrowly focused response that wouldn't draw the US into broader military conflict with Iran, asked for more options," the report said, quoting people who were briefed on the meeting.

In an interaction with reporters, White House Deputy Press Secretary Hogan Gidley said the president felt as though Iran was likely the culprit of the attack.

"I mean, it was an attack on the global economy. The president is dealing with all of our partners and allies in the region. We want to make sure that the evidence and the information clearly point to a culprit here.

"In all likelihood, as the president said, it was Iran. But, when we have a definitive answer on that, we'll let you know," he said, adding that no option is off the table.

Gidley said Trump has been very clear that the US is not going to begin to have conversations with Iran until they change the behaviour that they've been a part of for more than 40 years.

"When you're the world's largest state sponsor of terror, you're going to have to change behaviour if the president of the United States is going to have a conversation with you," he said.

"The president wants to make a deal with Iran. He sees great potential in the country. But, for the better part of 40 years, this kind of behaviour has been well documented, well known across the globe. The president wants to see that kind of behaviour change.

"We've been tougher on Iran than any administration in history with the sanctions we've put on them up to and including yesterday from the briefing room," he said.

(Published 18 September 2019, 02:35 IST)

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