U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo concluded that Iran is officially responsible for the weekend bombing on Saudi Arabia’s oil facilities, telling reporters that the strike was “an act of war.”
Pompeo, speaking from Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, added that even if the “fraudulent claims” of responsibility by the Yemen Houthi rebels were true, “it doesn’t change the fingerprints of the [Iran Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei] as having put at risk the global energy supply.”
His comments come hours after President Trump tweeted that he had ordered Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to “substantially increase sanctions” on Iran, amid escalating tensions between the two countries.
Iran, who has repeatedly denied involvement in the bombings, warned Wednesday that it would “immediately” retaliate against the United States if Tehran is targeted over a crippling weekend attack on Saudi oil facilities.
Earlier this week, Trump said it was “looking like” Iran was responsible for the bombing but did not publicly accuse Tehran of the attack.
“Well, it’s looking that way,” the president told reporters at the White House when asked if Iran was responsible. “We’ll let you know definitively.” He added: “That’s being checked out right now.”
Iran’s threat which was sent via the Swiss Embassy in Tehran, also condemned previous remarks made by Secretary Pompeo and other high-ranking U.S. officials suggesting Iran was behind the move.
“Iran’s response will be prompt and strong, and it may include broader areas than the source of attacks,” Iran’s Mehr News Agency reported.
Tehran’s Fars News Agency added that any response would be “rapid and crushing.”
Meanwhile, Saudi officials alleged on Wednesday that Iranian cruise missiles and drones were behind the attack on Sunday, showing journalists remains of the weapons. However, they stopped short of directly accusing Iran of launching the assault.
Saudi military spokesman Col. Turki al-Malki said the attack “came from the north,” without saying specifically where it originated. Iraq and Iran are to the north of Saudi Arabia across the Persian Gulf.
“The attack could not have originated from Yemen,” he said, disputing the claim by Yemen’s Iranian-backed Houthi rebels that they launched the weapons.
Saudi officials said the cruise missile, which had what appeared to be a jet engine attached to it, was a land-attack cruise missile that failed to explode.
“Almost certainly it’s Iranian-backed,” Prince Khalid bin Bandar, Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the United Kingdom, told the BBC. “We are trying not to react too quickly because the last thing we need is more conflict in the region.”
Iran sent a note through Swiss diplomats in Tehran on Monday, reiterating that Tehran denies being involved in the Saudi attack, IRNA reported. The Swiss have looked after American interests in Tehran for decades.
Pompeo is traveling to Saudi Arabia for meetings after Saturday’s attack, which hit a Saudi oil field and the world’s largest crude oil processing plant.
In Tehran, Rouhani told his Cabinet that Saudi Arabia should see the weekend attack as a warning to end its war in Yemen, where it has fought the Houthi rebels since 2015 and sought to restore the internationally recognized government.
Rouhani said Yemenis “did not hit hospitals, they did not hit schools or the Sanaa bazaar,” referring to the Saudi-led coalition’s widely criticized airstrikes on civilian targets.
He added that Iran does not want conflict in the region, but it was the Saudi-led coalition that “waged the war in the region and ruined Yemen.” Saying the Houthis were responsible for the drone strikes, he said: “They attacked an industrial center to warn you. Learn the lesson from the warning.”
Iran’s defense minister, Gen. Amir Hatami, also denied his country launched the attack, saying the Houthis had the capability to launch the assault.
Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Tuesday that U.S. military experts were in Saudi Arabia working with their counterparts to “do the forensics on the attack” — gleaning evidence that could help build a convincing case for where the weapons originated.