Secretary of state Mike Pompeo has said the US backs Saudi Arabia’s “right to defend itself” after a weekend attack targeted the heart of its oil industry”
The assault, which he has described as an “act of war”, has reignited fears of a wider conflagration in the region, as tensions remain high over Iran’s collapsing nuclear deal with world powers.
Mr Pompeo’s comments came as he was in Jiddah, Saudi Arabia, after meeting defence minister Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
Met with #Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman today to discuss the unprecedented attacks against Saudi Arabia’s oil infrastructure. The U.S. stands with #SaudiArabia and supports its right to defend itself. The Iranian regime’s threatening behavior will not be tolerated.
— Secretary Pompeo (@SecPompeo) September 18, 2019
The Saudis on Wednesday displayed missile and drone wreckage at a press conference, and cited other evidence they alleged shows the raid was “unquestionably sponsored by Iran”.
Tehran, which has denied involvement in the attack, warned the US it will retaliate immediately if it is targeted.
Mr Pompeo wrote his tweet after meeting Prince Mohammed over Saturday’s drone and cruise missile attack on a crucial oil processing facility and oil field.
Yemen’s Iranian-backed Houthi rebels have claimed the attack, but the US alleges Iran carried out the assault.
Mr Pompeo called the attacks “unprecedented.”
“The U.S. stands with #SaudiArabia and supports its right to defend itself,” Pompeo said. “The Iranian regime’s threatening behavior will not be tolerated.”
President Donald Trump has been noncommittal on whether he would order US military retaliation.
He said on Wednesday he will increase financial sanctions on Tehran over the attack. Iran is already subject to a crushing American sanctions programme targeting its crucial oil industry.
The United Arab Emirates, a close ally of Saudi Arabia, announced on Thursday that it had joined a US-led coalition to protect waterways across the Middle East after the attack on Saudi oil installations.
The state-run WAM news agency quoted Salem al-Zaabi of the Emirati Foreign Ministry as saying the UAE joined the coalition to “ensure global energy security and the continued flow of energy supplies to the global economy”.
Saudi Arabia joined the coalition on Wednesday. Australia, Bahrain and the UK also are taking part.
The US formed the coalition after attacks on oil tankers that American officials blame on Iran, as well as Tehran’s seizure of tankers in the region. Iran denies being behind the tanker explosions, although the attacks came after Tehran threatened to stop oil exports from the Persian Gulf.