- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 15, 2019

President Trump on Sunday said there is “reason to believe” the U.S. has intelligence on who conducted the Saturday drone bombings that hit one of the world’s largest oil reserves and a key oil field in Saudi Arabia, and that the U.S. is “locked and loaded depending on verification” of who launched the attacks.

He explained that the U.S. is “waiting to hear from the Kingdom as to who they believe was the cause of this attack, and under what terms we would proceed!”

Iran has staunchly denied responsibility for the Saturday drone attacks, which halved the daily production of the world’s largest oil exporter and could disrupt the global market.

“The Americans adopted the ‘maximum pressure’ policy against Iran, which, due to its failure, is leaning towards ‘maximum lies,’” said Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi.

Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen — who have been locked in a long, bloody civil war with that nation’s Saudi-backed government — claimed responsibility for Saturday’s attacks, but Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was quick to insist that “there is no evidence the attacks came from Yemen.”

“Tehran is behind nearly 100 attacks on Saudi Arabia while [its leaders] pretend to engage in diplomacy,” Mr. Pompeo tweeted. “Amid all the calls for de-escalation, Iran has now launched an unprecedented attack on the world’s energy supply.”

Mr. Mousavi hit back at Mr. Pompeo’s comments calling them “blind and futile.”

Senior U.S. officials told reporters Sunday, before Mr. Trump’s tweets, that satellite imagery shows almost 20 points of impact consistent with the attack having come from the north — the direction of Iran or Iraq — rather than from Yemen on Saudi Arabia’s southern border.

Additional devices that missed their targets were recovered northwest of the facilities and are being jointly analyzed by Saudi and U.S. intelligence, The Associated Press reported.

The latest attacks come on the heels of several drone strikes on Saudi Arabia’s oil industry and appear to have caused the worst damage since attacks began several weeks ago. While it is unclear whether anyone was injured, the attacks caused a major fire at Saudi Aramco’s Abqaiq facility.

The company describes the site as “the largest crude oil stabilization plant in the world.”

The oil-rich kingdom has temporarily halted the production of roughly 5.7 million barrels per day, but assured customers they will continue to be supplied by backup inventories. Getting back to full production might take weeks.

In an earlier Sunday tweet, Mr. Trump announced that the U.S. would tap into the Strategic Petroleum Reserve “if needed.”

“Based on the attack on Saudi Arabia, which may have an impact on oil prices, I have authorized the release of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, if needed, in a to-be-determined amount sufficient to keep the markets well-supplied,” Mr. Trump tweeted.

He also said that the necessary agencies have been advised to speed up the approval process for oil pipelines in Texas and “various other States.”

White House counselor Kellyanne Conway said earlier in an interview with “Fox News Sunday” that the attacks hit areas that are “vital to our global energy supply and we’re not going to stand for that.”

As the world waits to assess the impact the attacks will have on the global oil markets, which open Monday morning, S&P Global Platts Analytics predicted oil prices are likely to exceed the $55-$65-per-barrel mark and will inch closer to $70-$80 per barrel, possibly higher.

In the tweet, Iranian Foreign Affairs Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif hinted that “blaming Iran won’t end disaster” in Yemen — where its citizens are bearing the brunt of a severe humanitarian crisis stemming from the ongoing war — but engaging in talks might.

In her “Fox News Sunday” interview, Mrs. Conway said Mr. Trump is considering meeting with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York next week.

“The president will always consider his options,” she said, adding that “the conditions must always be right” but “when you attack Saudi Arabia … you’re not helping your case much.”

Hours later, Mr. Trump strongly disputed the claim. “The Fake News is saying that I am willing to meet with Iran, ‘No Conditions.’ That is an incorrect statement (as usual!)” he tweeted.

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