Donald Trump and Hassan Rouhani back away from talks as US is 'locked and loaded' after Saudi oil attack

Smoke from a fire at the Abqaiq oil processing facility fills the skyline, in Buqyaq, Saudi Arabia. – Al-Arabiya

US President Donald Trump and Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani appeared to back away from the prospect of talks on Monday, after an attack on a Saudi Arabian oil facility blamed on Tehran sent oil prices soaring.

crippling production. ” data-reactid=”18″>Missiles hit vital infrastructure at Saudi’s Abqaiq petroleum processing plant – the world’s largest – on Saturday, crippling production. 

The Trump administration had said the president would be willing to meet Mr Rouhani without conditions, but he appeared on Sunday night to talk down the possibility in light of developments.

“The Fake News is saying that I am willing to meet with Iran, ‘No Conditions.’ That is an incorrect statement,” he tweeted.

A satellite image shows an apparent drone strike on an Aramco oil facility in Saudi Arabia Credit: Planet Labs

Abbas Mousavi, Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman, meanwhile, said there would be no meeting between the pair on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly later in September. 

The US president did not mention Iran, but wrote that he had “reason to believe that we know the culprit”.

“[We] are locked and loaded depending on verification, but are waiting to hear from the Kingdom [of Saudi Arabia] as to who they believe was the cause of this attack and under what terms we would proceed!,” Mr Trump tweeted.

world’s daily crude oil production. ” data-reactid=”35″>Saturday’s attack halted production of 5.7 million barrels of crude a day, more than half of Saudi Arabia’s global daily exports and more than 5 per cent of the world’s daily crude oil production. 

At 5.7 million barrels of crude oil a day, the Saudi disruption would be the greatest on record for world markets, according to figures from the Paris-based International Energy Agency. 

Talks now unlikely between US President Donald Trump and counterpart Hassan Rouhani

Riyadh said its stockpiles would keep global market supplied, but a regional source told the Telegraph the damage was so severe it could take months to resume normal output. 

The Houthis, a Shia group aligned with Iran fighting Saudi-backed forces in Yemen, claimed responsibility for the attack and said it had the oil field “locked in its crosshairs”.

However, experts and officials say it was unlikely to have been the Houthis, who lack the capability to carry out such a highly orchestrated attack on the kingdom.

“This wasn’t done by an amateur, to put it very mildly,” tweeted Carl Bildt, co-chair of the European Council on Foreign Relations . “It was a massive and highly sophisticated attack.”

A US official told ABC news that said Iran launched nearly a dozen cruise missiles and over 20 drones from its territory

“It was Iran. The Houthis are claiming credit for something they did not do,” they said. 

The US released satellite images and cited intelligence to back its claim that Iran was behind attacks on major Saudi oil facilities.

Smoke is seen following a fire at an Aramco factory in Abqaiq Credit: Reuters

There appeared to have been 19 surgical strikes on targets at the facility, which one official said had come from a west-north-west direction – not Houthi-controlled territory in Yemen, which lies to the south-west of the Saudi oil facilities.

They believed cruise-missiles were likely launched from either Iraq or Iran.

Iran called the US allegations “maximum lies.”

The attacks mark the most serious confrontation between rivals in the region and risks an all-out confrontation that would draw in their allies.

Mr Trump has said he does not want war with Iran, despite pursuing a “maximum pressure” policy towards the foe. The weekend attacks put pressure on Washington to come to the defence of the kingdom and risk confrontation with an unpredictable Tehran or look weak.