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US and Saudis considering joint military response on Iran after oil attacks

President Donald Trump speaks with Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, Deputy Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, during their meeting Tuesday, March 14, 2017, in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, D.C. (Shealah Craighead/White House)
September 16, 2019

Iran supplied the drones and missiles used to attacks Saudi Arabian oil production facilities over the weekend, according to Saudi Arabian officials; bringing new weight to the potential for a joint retaliatory strike by the U.S. and Saudi Arabian governments.

According to New York Times reporting on Monday, U.S. and Saudi Arabian officials confirmed that Iranian weapons were used in the strikes and did not originate from Yemen, as the Iranian backed Houthi rebels claimed after the attack.

The missile and drone attacks forced the Saudi government to shut down their oil facilities at Abqaiq and Khurais, which process much of the crude oil supply for the Saudi kingdom, which in turn accounts for roughly one-tenth of the world’s supply.

The attack came as a significant development in Saudi Arabia’s war with the Houthi rebels in Yemen, which has lasted for more than four years. While the rebels claimed the attack and Iran has denied any involvement, Saudi officials do not appear convinced.

“The initial results show that they are Iranian weapons,” Col. Turki al-Maliki, spokesman for the Saudi-led forces in Yemen, said during a press conference in the Saudi capital of Riyadh.

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While still working to determine the specific launch point for the attack, he said Saudi investigators determined the attack did not originate from Yemen, as the Houthi rebels claimed.

President Donald Trump’s response to the news of the attack also seemed to indicate U.S. assessments that the attack came from Iran or with Iranian support.

In a tweet, Trump recalled Iran’s claims that a U.S. drone, shot down in June, was flying over Iranian airspace.

“They stuck strongly to that story knowing it was a very big lie. Now they say that the had nothing to do with the attack on Saudi Arabia. We’ll see?,” Trump tweeted.

In a prior tweet on Sunday, Trump said “there is reason to believe that we know the culprit,” of the attack on the Saudi Arabian oil supply, but that U.S. response would only follow verification from Saudi Arabia, and input from the Saudis as to the terms of U.S. participation in response to the attack.

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The attack, which triggered a spike in oil prices worldwide, has been called an attack on not just Saudi Arabia but also the world energy supply and supporters of Saudi Arabia’s monarchy have urged a retaliation, according to the Washington Post.

“What is required is nothing more than the destruction of Iran’s oil installations, and if there is a capacity, nuclear facilities and military bases as well,” Turki al-Hamad, a Saudi political analyst, said.

In response to the attack, the U.S. may be preparing to cover the gap in the world oil supply by accessing it’s strategic reserves, though U.S. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry said it was too early to confirm the decision, according to a Reuters report.

On Saturday, Perry said he has directed the Energy Department to work with the Paris-based International Energy Agency to determine a “collective global action” to assist the global energy supply.

The Saturday attacks on Saudi oil facilities, as well as the June shootdown of the U.S. drone have come during a period of heightened tensions with Iran, in which Iran has attacked shipping vessels traveling near its territorial waters.