Saudi Arabia has displayed drone and missile debris that it said showed a weekend attack targeting the kingdom’s crucial oil industry was “unquestionably sponsored by Iran.”
Defense Ministry spokesman Colonel Turki al-Malki told a news conference in Riyadh on September 18 that 18 drones and seven cruise missiles struck from a direction that ruled out Yemen as a source.
“The attack was launched from the north and unquestionably sponsored by Iran,” Malki said, adding that the exact launch site was still being investigated.
Yemen’s Iranian-backed Huthi rebels had earlier said they were behind the September 14 attack that hit a Saudi oil field and the world’s largest crude oil-processing plant.
Tehran has denied involvement in the air attack, and warned it would retaliate against any military response.
Following the Riyadh press conference, Hesameddin Ashena, an adviser to Iran’s president, tweeted that Saudi Arabia proved that “it knows nothing about where the missiles and drones were made or launched from.”
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo landed in Saudi Arabia on September 18 to “coordinate efforts to counter Iranian aggression in the region,” according to the State Department.
In Riyadh, Malki showed off what was said to be a delta wing of an Iranian drone along with other weapons debris.
The Saudi Defense Ministry spokesman said that 18 drones had been fired at the Abqaiq oil facility, while four cruise missiles struck the Khurais oilfield and three others fell short of Abqaiq.
He said that the “precision impact” of the cruise missiles in the Khurais attack indicates “advanced capability beyond the Iran proxy’s capacity.”
“Despite Iran’s best efforts to make it appear so, their collaboration with their proxy in the region to create this false narrative is clear, ” Malki said, calling the attack “an assault on the international community.”
Iranian Defense Minister Amir Hatami earlier said that the issue was very clear: “There has been a conflict between two countries,” referring to Yemen and Saudi Arabia, which is leading a military coalition that has been battling the Huthis since 2015.
And President Hassan Rohani said that Huthis targeted Saudi oil facilities as a “warning” about a possible wider war in response to the kingdom’s U.S.-backed intervention in Yemen.
“The Yemenis…haven’t hit a hospital, they haven’t hit a school…. They just hit an industrial center…to warn you,” Rohani said after a cabinet meeting.
“Learn lessons from this warning and consider that there could be a war in the region,” he added.
In a note sent this week to the United States via the Swiss Embassy in Tehran, Iran warned that “in case of any aggression against Iran, that action will face an immediate response from Iran and the response won’t be limited to its source,” according to the state news agency IRNA.
The Swiss Embassy represents U.S. interests in Iran.
In a September 17 speech at the Heritage Foundation think tank in Washington, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence said the United States was consulting with its allies before President Donald Trump determines “the best course of action in the days ahead.”
Unnamed U.S. officials were quoted as saying that the September 14 attack that struck a Saudi oil field originated in southwestern Iran and involved both cruise missiles and drones.
The strikes knocked out 5.7 million barrels of crude-oil production per day for the Saudi kingdom, or about 5 percent of the world’s daily production.
On September 18, the U.S. State Department called on Americans to “exercise increased caution” while traveling to Saudi Arabia, a travel advisory posted on its website said.
Meanwhile, the Saudi kingdom announced it had joined a U.S.-led naval mission to patrol the waters in the Persian Gulf.
Relations between Washington and Tehran have soured since Trump withdrew from the Iranian nuclear deal last year and reimposed sanctions over the country’s nuclear and ballistic-missile programs.
Amid escalating tensions, Trump said on September 18 that he had ordered Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to “substantially increase sanctions” imposed on Iran.
He did not give details on the move.