Saudi king urges international response after oil field attacks blamed on Iran

Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei waves to the crowd during a ceremony attended by clerics in the capital Tehran – AFP

Saudi Arabia’s king has urged an international response to attacks on the kingdom’s oil industry blamed on Iran, which sent crude prices soaring and brought the region to the brink of war.

"clearly confronting" those behind it.” data-reactid=”18″>King Salman, speaking for the first time since the weekend strikes, called on the international community “to shoulder its responsibility in condemning the perpetrators” and “clearly confronting” those behind it.

He said the Saudi “is able to respond to such acts” regardless of their origin.

The weekend strikes on Abqaiq – the world’s largest processing plant – and the Khurais oilfield have knocked out 5.7 million barrels per day, or six percent of global total, making it the biggest disruption to oil production in modern history.

They picked up slightly on Tuesday, after analysts said Saudi output could return to normal within weeks.

 

This satellite overview handout image obtained September 16, 2019 courtesy of Planet Labs Inc. shows damage to oil infrastructure from weekend drone attacks at Abqaig 

Saudi’s allies have condemned the attacks, which have served to show how costly a conflict between the kingdom and Iran would be.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Angela Merkel, German Chancellor, agreed on “the need to work together, alongside international partners, to agree a collective response,” according to Downing Street.

 

President Donald Trump had said the US would take its cue from Riyadh, which said the weapons used were Iranian made but that its investigation to establish the launch site was still ongoing.

Mr Trump stressed that if there were to be a retaliatory strike, Saudi would have to play a leading role and that the US would not shoulder the cost.

As to whether diplomacy with Iran had been exhausted, he said: “No, it’s never exhausted … You never know what’s going to happen … I know they want to make a deal … At some point it will work out.”

There had been mooted plans for Mr Trump to to meet Iranian President Hassan Rouhani at the UN General Assembly in New York later this month, in an attempt to stop the tense situation from escalating.

The prospect looked more likely after the departure of Mr Trump’s hawkish national security adviser John Bolton, who had pushed a “maximum pressure” policy on Iran.

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

However, following the latest developments, Iran’s supreme leader on Tuesday dismissed the possibility of talks with the US “on any level”.

“Iranian officials, at any level, will never talk to American officials. This is part of their policy to put pressure on Iran … their policy of maximum pressure will fail,” Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s highest authority, said.

“If America changes its behaviour and returns to the nuclear deal, then it can join multilateral talks between Iran and other parties to the deal,” he added.

Ayatollah Khamenei said the US wants to prove its “maximum pressure policy” against Iran is successful.

“In return, we have to prove that the policy is not worth a penny for the Iranian nation,” he said. “That’s why all Iranian officials, from the president and the foreign minister to all others have announced that we do not negotiate (with the US) either bilaterally or multilaterally.”

The crisis between Washington and Tehran stems from Mr Trump’s pullout last year from the 2015 nuclear accord between Iran and world powers. He also re-imposed and escalated sanctions on Iran that sent the country’s economy into freefall.

The US looked as though it might be dragged into direct confrontation with Tehran this week after the Islamic republic was accused of being behind Saturday’s attack on ally Saudi.

Mr Trump tweeted that the US was “locked and loaded” but that it would take the lead from Riyadh.

The US has stopped short of blaming Iran, but officials have privately briefed they have evidence the drones were launched from Iranian territory.

“Well, it’s looking that way,” Mr Trump said when asked if Iran was responsible for the attacks. “We’ll let you know definitively. … That’s being checked out right now.”

He said he did not want war with Iran, however, if it came to it he noted the US has the best weapons systems.

“The United States is more prepared” for a conflict than any country in history, the president said. “With all that being said, we’d certainly like to avoid it.”