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Trump, Pentagon discuss airstrikes on Iran among possible military responses to Saudi oil attack

The aircraft carrier John F. Kennedy (CVN 79) is the second ship in the Gerald R. Ford class, the Navy's newest class of nuclear aircraft carriers (US Navy/Released)
September 20, 2019

The Pentagon may present President Donald Trump with a range of military options against Iran, since the country has been blamed for an attack on Saudi oil facilities last week.

A report by the Associated Press said the Department of Defense will brief Trump on Friday on a number of options for military action against Iran. The briefing could include an assessment for a U.S. airstrike against the Islamic Republic of Iran, as well as an evaluation of the likelihood that military actions could escalate into a war.

“It is my job to provide military options to the president should he decide to respond with military force,” Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff told the AP.

“In the Middle East, of course, we have military forces there and we do a lot of planning and we have a lot of options,” Dunford said.

Since last week’s reported attacks on oil processing facilities in Saudi Arabia, the blame has shifted to Iran.

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Though the Yemen-based Houthi rebels have claimed responsibility for the attack and Iran has denied any involvement, Saudi officials have rejected the Houthi claims and suggest the attack did not come from the direction of Yemen in the South, but rather from the direction of Iran to their North.

Trump has also signaled doubt in the Iranian denials, citing an incident in June when Iran shot down a U.S. drone. Iran claimed the drone flew over its airspace, while U.S. officials maintain it was flying over international waters.

“Remember when Iran shot down a drone, saying knowingly that it was in their ‘airspace’ when, in fact, it was nowhere close,” Trump tweeted Sunday. “They struck strongly to that story knowing that it was a very big lie. Now they say that they had nothing to do with the attack on Saudi Arabia. We’ll see?”

In the wake of the attack, Trump has alluded to some form of joint retaliatory strike with Saudi Arabia against Iran, and on Wednesday Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was en route to Saudi Arabia to evaluate the Saudi investigation of the attack.

On Wednesday, Iran warned against any U.S. response to the attacks, which Iran’s Defense Minister Brigadier General Amir Hatami described as a plot by the Saudi Arabian and the “Zionist regime” to “drag the US into a conflict in the region.”

Michigan Democratic Congresswoman Elissa Slotkin, told the AP if Trump carries out any significant military strike against Iran it could escalate into “a medium to large-scale war.”

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In her comments, Slotkin urged Trump to bring the matter before Congress before a decision is made.

Among other options for response, Air Force Col. Pat Ryder, spokesman for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said U.S. Central Command is talking with the Saudis about ways to mitigate bolster their defenses against future attacks.

The AP reported other U.S. officials have suggested placing Patriot missile batteries and enhanced radar systems on Saudi soil.

Trump has already authorized U.S. military cyber forces to attack the military computer systems Iran’s Revolutionary Guard use to control its missile systems, the AP reported.

Trump has also directed Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin to increase sanctions against Iran.

Trump has also authorized Energy Secretary Rick Perry to access U.S. strategic oil reserves to mend the gap in the energy market, after the attack halved Saudi Arabia’s oil production.