Trump Denies Iran Threat, Then Revives It in Muddled Response


Blaming the Tuesday incident on Yemeni Houthi rebels, the Saudi Minister said that "they used explosive-laden airborne drones to attack Saudi Arabian pumping stations on an east-west oil pipeline which belongs to Aramco".

The minister, the state news agency said, stressed that "Saudi oil production has not been interrupted".

There has been an all-round condemnation of the targeted sabotage of four commercial vessels - two from Saudi Arabia and one each from United Arab Emirates and Norway - off the coast of Fujairah.

The updated military plan, which was presented to President Donald Trump last week during a meeting with Acting Defense Secretary Pat Shanahan, comes as tensions between Washington and Tehran have risen following what officials citing classified intelligence said were signs of possible threats to USA forces or interests in the region.

The New York Times reported late on Monday that the Trump administration is reviewing updated military plans for dealing with Iran should Iran attack us forces or ramp up its nuclear weapons program.

"Recent attacks in the Gulf and Saudi Arabia are aimed at the world and not just [Saudi Arabia]", Saudi energy minister Khalid Al-Falih said.

"These attacks prove again that it is important for us to face terrorist entities, including the Houthi militias in Yemen that are backed by Iran", Falih said, calling the attack an "act of terrorism" that targeted the world's global oil supply. Iran is its third largest supplier after Iraq and Saudi Arabia. and meets about 10% of its total needs.

Tensions are mounting between Iran and the United States and they have been for a while, stemming from disagreements over Iran's nuclear capabilities.

It remains uncertain whether Trump, who has sought to disentangle the USA from Afghanistan and Syria, ultimately would send American forces back to the Middle East.

Asked what Iran should be anxious the USA might do, the president said: "You can figure it out yourself".

On Monday, U.S. benchmark crude oil added 78 cents to $62.44 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

A UAE official told Reuters the UAE was working with local and worldwide partners from the United States, France, Norway, and Saudi Arabia to "fully investigate the incident and to identify the people or entities responsible". "Gulf officials have characterized the damage to the tankers as sabotage".

Iranian military officials have upped their rhetoric in response. And Iran looks like it's being backed into a corner.

Emirati officials are investigating the incident.

Tehran meanwhile called for an investigation into Sunday's "alarming" attacks off the Emirati coast and warned of "adventurism" by foreign players to disrupt maritime security.

The Pentagon said Friday that it was deploying an amphibious assault ship and a Patriot missile battery to the Middle East to bolster an aircraft carrier force sent to counter alleged threats from Iran.

In addition to pulling the US out of the Iran nuclear deal in May 2018, which was a hallmark of former President Barack Obama's foreign policy legacy, Trump also chose to crack down on Iran petroleum exports last month as a way of bringing a regime he views as risky to heel.

National Shipping Company of Saudi Arabia (Bahri) did not respond to a request for comment.