- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is on his way to the Middle East as Vice President Mike Pence said Tuesday the U.S. intelligence community is “working diligently” to determine who attacked Saudi Arabia’s oil fields.

Mr. Pence echoed President Trump in saying all signs point to Iran as the culprit, characterizing it as the latest in series of lash-outs over the White House’s decision to exit the 2015 nuclear deal and apply maximum pressure on Tehran.

“But know this: If Iran conducted this latest attack to pressure President Trump to back off, they will fail,” Mr. Pence said in a speech at the conservative Heritage Foundation. “America is ready to defend our interests.”

Mr. Pompeo is jetting across the globe Tuesday to discuss the response with the Saudis, the vice president said, as intelligence agencies pour over photographs of the aftermath to determine the trajectory of the Saturday attacks and their source.

“Let me say we’re evaluating all the evidence. We’re consulting with our allies. And the president will determine the best course of action in the days ahead,” Mr. Pence said. “But I promise you, under President Donald Trump, America will maintain our energy dominance, we will maintain our momentum toward energy independence.  And the United States of America will take whatever action is necessary to defend our country, our troops, and our allies in the Gulf. You can count on it.”



Mr. Pence said recent steps to increase domestic energy production have insulated the U.S. against the oil-price shocks created by Saturday’s drone attacks against Saudi production.

Senate Energy Committee Chairwoman Lisa Murkowski echoed the vice president in condemning the attacks and hailing U.S.’s growing ability to absorb ripples in oil supply.

“While the details and impacts are still publicly emerging, it is clear our intelligence and national security teams have a lot of work to do, in concert with our partners in the region,” Ms. Murkowski said. “This is a difficult situation, that’s putting it mildly, but as I look to where we are today, I think we also recognize that the impact that we are seeing could be worse.”

“These attacks,” she said, “are a reminder that there is no substitute for American energy production, which has grown into a stabilizing force for world markets.”

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said the attack was a twin assault on Saudi Arabia and the global economy, so the perpetrators must suffer consequences.

However, he also faulted the Trump administration, saying its “lack of a clear, consistent policy on Iran, on the Middle East generally and on international security continues to create instability rather than stability.”

“While this action has no justification, it occurred within that context,” he said. “The administration must articulate and put into place a coherent, credible policy dealing with Iran, the Middle East and global insecurity.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, meanwhile, said now it not the time for partisan wrangling. He said both sides need to pass critical spending bills to ensure military readiness in the face of Iran and other threats.

Iran’s violent aggression highlights the need for vigilance and for strength,” he said. “All of this is needlessly more difficult if we don’t do our job and fund the military’s modernization and readiness.”

 

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