US building coalition after Saudi oil attack, Iran warns against war
DUBAI (Reuters) – The United States said on Thursday it was building a coalition to deter Iranian threats following a weekend attack on Saudi Arabian oil facilities.
Iran has warned US President Donald Trump against being dragged into a war in the Middle East and said it would meet any offensive action with a crushing response.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that Trump, who has ordered more sanctions on Iran, wants a peaceful solution to the crisis.
He was speaking after talks with Saudi and Emirati leaders over the strike that Washington and Riyadh have blamed on Tehran.
Iran denies involvement in the Sept. 14 attack that initially halved Saudi oil output and which Pompeo earlier called an act of war against the world’s largest oil exporter.
Pompeo appeared to soften his tone on Thursday after talks with Abu Dhabi’s crown prince, the de facto ruler of the United Arab Emirates, which is Riyadh’s main Arab ally.
“We are here to build out a coalition aimed at achieving peace and a peaceful resolution. That’s my mission, that’s what President Trump certainly wants me to work to achieve and I hope that the Islamic Republic of Iran sees it that way,” Pompeo told reporters.
He did not provide details about the coalition. The United States has however been trying to create a global maritime security alliance since attacks on oil tankers in Gulf waters, which Washington also blamed on Iran.
Pompeo described his proposed coalition as “an act of diplomacy while the foreign minister of Iran is threatening all out war”.
Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammed Javad Zarif, told CNN that the Islamic Republic “won’t blink” if it has to defend itself against any US or Saudi military strike, which he said would lead to “all-out war”.
Zarif mocked Pompeo, saying he was part of a so-called “B-team”, along with Saudi Arabia’s crown prince, which is trying to dupe Trump into opting for war.
Pompeo on Wednesday met Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who has called the assault on oil plants a “test of global will”.
Riyadh has displayed what it described as remnants of 25 Iranian drones and missiles used in the strike, saying it was undeniable evidence of Iranian aggression.
Pompeo earlier welcomed an announcement by the UAE that it was joining the maritime coalition, a day after Riyadh said it would too.
Britain and Bahrain previously said they are participating but most European countries have been reluctant to sign up for fear of stoking regional tensions. Iraq said it would not join the mission, and also rejected any Israeli role in it.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov urged all countries in the Gulf to sit down for talks to defuse tensions and said groundless accusations against Iran over the attacks were inflaming tensions, Interfax news agency reported.
Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthi movement, which is battling a Saudi-led military coalition, claimed responsibility for the assault on two Saudi oil plants, including the world’s largest processing facility. US and Saudi officials rejected the claim, saying the attack had not come from the south.
Kuwait, which said earlier this week it was investigating the detection of a drone over its territory, has put its oil sector on high alert and raised security to the highest level as a precautionary measure.
Oil prices, which soared following the attack, steadied after Saudi Arabia pledged to restore full oil production by the end of September.