Updated Sep 16, 2019 - World

Saudi coalition says Iranian weapons used in oil attacks

This satellite image shows damage to Saudi Aramco's Abaqaiq oil processing plant.

This satellite image shows damage to Saudi Aramco's Abaqaiq oil processing plant. Photo: U.S. government/Digital Globe

The Saudi Arabian-led military coalition fighting in Yemen said Monday that Iranian weapons were used to strike major oil plants in Saudi Arabia over the weekend, Reuters reports.

Why it matters: The Saudi claim, which also said the strikes did not come from Yemeni territory, came hours after the Trump administration released satellite images as evidence that the attacks came from Iraq or Iran, highlighting a marked escalation in months of tension between the U.S. and Iran, which has denied involvement.

  • It raises questions about how Washington might respond to the attacks that halved Saudi oil production and sent oil prices soaring, and why Iran would have risked such a confrontation, as the New York Times points out.

The big picture: President Trump tweeted Sunday night, "There is reason to believe that we know the culprit, are locked and loaded depending on verification."

  • Trump did not name the suspect, but Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tweeted earlier, "Iran has now launched an unprecedented attack on the world's energy supply."

The case against Iran: U.S. officials produced satellite photos showing what they said were at least 19 points of impact at 2 Saudi facilities, including damage at the heart of the kingdom's crucial oil processing plant at Abqaiq, AP reports.

  • An official told CNN that such a strike could not be carried out with 10 drones, which the Houthis claimed to have used. "You can't hit 19 targets with 10 drones like that," the official said.
  • Other devices that didn't reach their targets were recovered northwest of the facilities and were being analyzed by Saudi and American intelligence, the officials said, per AP.

What they're saying: Iraq denied that its territory was used for an attack on Saudi Arabia, per AP.

The big picture: Tensions between the 2 countries increased in May on the first anniversary of Trump withdrawing the U.S. from the Iran nuclear deal, when he hit Tehran with sanctions. Iran has breached the 2015 deal several times since and scaled back its commitments. The U.S. later imposed more sanctions on Iran and its officials.

  • In June, Trump said after Iran shot down an unmanned U.S. drone that the United States had readied a series of strikes against the country, but he called the action off at the last moment because it would cause too many casualties.
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