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Trump says US ‘locked and loaded’ after attack on Saudi oil fields

President Donald J. Trump convenes a hurricane briefing with Deputy Administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency Peter T. Gaynor, Department of Homeland Security Acting Secretary Kevin McAleenan, North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper and other officials, Monday, Sep. 9, 2019, aboard Air Force One during a stop in Havelock, N.C. (Official White House Photo Shealah Craighead)
September 15, 2019

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

President Donald Trump said the United States is ready to retaliate in response to an attack on September 14 that disabled about half of Saudi Arabia’s oil production.

“Saudi Arabia oil supply was attacked,” Trump on September 15 in social media. “There is no reason to believe that we know the culprit, are locked and loaded on verification, but are waiting to hear from the [Saudi] kingdom as to who they believe the cause of this attack, and under what terms we would proceed!”

Earlier on the same day, Trump said he authorized the release U.S. strategic petroleum reserves “if needed” to stabilize energy markets. The reserve contains about 630 million barrels of oil, according to official data, and past presidents have released quantities during times of crisis, if there are fears of skyrocketing prices.

The September 14 attacks reduced production by 5.7 million barrels a day, state oil giant Saudi Aramco said– nearly half the kingdom’s output. That affects 5 percent of the world’s daily oil production, Reuters and the Wall Street Journal reported.

Saudi officials said a third of crude output will be back online on September 16.

An unnamed U.S. official told Reuters the attacks came from a direction indicating that Iran was behind the attack and that cruise missiles may have been used, not drones as Iranian-backed Huthi rebels in Yemen had claimed.

Iran rejected U.S. accusations that it was behind the attack and warned that U.S. land and naval forces in the region were within range of its missiles.

The September 15 comments by top Iranian officials followed pointed accusations from U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who charged that Tehran had launched “an unprecedented attack” on global energy supplies.

“Tehran is behind nearly 100 attacks on Saudi Arabia while [Iranian President Hassan] Rohani and [Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad] Zarif pretend to engage in diplomacy,” Pompeo said in the Twitter post.

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Musavi, however, denied Iranian involvement, saying in a statement that “such fruitless and blind accusations are incomprehensible and meaningless.”

The accusations, he said, were intended to justify “future actions” against Iran.

A senior Iranian Revolutionary Guards commander, meanwhile, warned that the county was ready for war.

“Everybody should know that all American bases and their aircraft carriers in a distance of up to 2,000 kilometers around Iran are within the range of our missiles,” the semi-official Tasnim news agency quoted commander Amirali Hajizadeh as saying.

Since March 2015, a Saudi-led coalition has been battling the Huthi rebels, which are part of a regional network of militant groups aligned with Iran. The Shi’ite insurgent group holds Yemen’s capital, Sanaa, and other territory in the Arab world’s poorest country.

The conflict has been in military stalemate for years.