Iran Seems to Be Responsible for Attack on Saudi Oil Facilities, Trump Says

Senate majority leader 'hopes our international partners will join us in imposing consequences on Iran for this reckless, destabilizing attack'

President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting with Bahrain's Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa​ in the Oval Office of the White House, September 16, 2019.
Alex Brandon,AP

U.S. President Donald Trump said on Monday that it looked like Iran was responsible for attacks over the weekend on Saudi Arabian oil plants, but he was in no rush to respond and was still trying to find out who was behind the strikes.

"Remember when Iran shot down a drone, saying knowingly that it was in their 'airspace' when, in fact, it was nowhere close. They stuck strongly to that story knowing that it was a very big lie. Now they say that they had nothing to do with the attack on Saudi Arabia. We'll see?" Trump wrote in a post.

Several U.S. cabinet officials, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and U.S. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry, have blamed Tehran for the attacks, which cut 5% of world crude oil production.

Iran has denied blame, with Iranian President Hassan Rohani saying the strike was carried out by "Yemeni people" retaliating to attacks by the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen's four-year-old war.

Trump said the United States had a lot of options to respond to the attacks, but declined to say what measures he was considering. He added that, while the United States could help, he had not promised protection to Riyadh.

The attacks on Saudi Arabia have damaged the globe's largest crude processing plant and triggered the biggest jump in oil prices in nearly 30 years.

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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell blamed Iran for the attack and called for an international response.

"I hope our international partners will join us in imposing consequences on Iran for this reckless, destabilizing attack," McConnell, a Republican, said as he opened the U.S. Senate.

Earlier on Monday, members of the U.S. Congress blasted Iran for the attack, but expressed wariness about U.S. military action, especially before they have a clearer picture of who was behind it.

Trump said the United States was "locked and loaded" to hit back after Saturday's attack, which knocked out more than half of Saudi Arabia's oil production and damaged the world's biggest crude processing plant.

Iran denied U.S. accusations it was to blame and said it was ready for "full-fledged war."

U.S. lawmakers, especially Trump's fellow Republicans, were quick to blame Tehran.

"Iran continues to respond to diplomacy with violence and demonstrate the regime's refusal to act as a responsible member of the international community," Senator Jim Risch, the Republican chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, said in a statement.

Many members of Congress stressed that the U.S. Congress, not the president has the right to declare war and warned against any quick military action.

Congress, with backing from both Republicans and Democrats, has passed – but Trump has vetoed – four bills seeking to push back against Trump's strong support for the Saudi government, despite its human rights record and steep civilian casualties in the war in Yemen.

Senate aides said the administration was expected to begin providing classified briefings on Saturday's attack for congressional staff and members as soon as Monday.

Senator Chris Murphy, a Democrat who is on the Foreign Relations committee, noted that the United States has long been wary of getting involved in conflicts between nations in the Middle East. He noted that Washington does not have a defense treaty with Riyadh.

"Why should the United States get dragged into a conflict that has more to do with Saudi and Iranian power in the Middle East than American power?" Murphy, a critic of Saudi Arabia on rights issues including its role in the Yemen war, told Reuters.

Risch warned of U.S. retaliation in case of an attack on U.S. troops.

"Iran should not underestimate the United States' resolve," he said. "Any attack against U.S. forces deployed abroad must be met with an overwhelming response - no targets are off the table."

Republican Senator Rand Paul, another member of the foreign relations panel, said on CNN that any attack on Iran would constitute a "needless escalation" of war.