Updated Sep 16, 2019

Saudi coalition says Iranian weapons used in oil attacks

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.

Go deeper

Pentagon prepping report on perpetrator of Saudi oil attacks

Smoke billows from an Aramco oil facility in Abqaiq, Saudi Arabia, after the attacks. Photo: AFP/Getty Images

The Pentagon is preparing to release a report on the perpetrator of the attacks against Saudi Arabian oil facilities by Thursday, a U.S. defense official told Bloomberg.

Why it matters: Even though Yemen's Iranian-backed Houthi rebels have claimed responsibility, American and Saudi officials have alleged that Iran carried out the attacks.

Go deeperArrowSep 17, 2019

U.S. to send troops to Saudi Arabia

Defense Secretary Mark Esper. Photo: Getty Images/Alex Wong

In a press conference Friday evening, U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper announced the Pentagon will deploy U.S. forces to the Middle East in response to last Saturday's attacks against major oil processing and production sites in Saudi Arabia.

Why it matters: Both Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the Saudis have blamed Iran for the attacks, though officials are still investigating. Iranian officials have warned the U.S. they are prepared to respond to any attack from the U.S. or Saudi Arabia, the Washington Post reports.

Go deeperArrowSep 20, 2019

Trump says U.S. will impose "highest sanctions ever" on Iran's central bank

Iranian President Hasan Rouhani (L) and President Trump. Photo: Adem Altan/AFP/Getty Images; Mark Wilson/Getty Images

President Trump told reporters in the Oval Office on Friday that he had issued the "highest sanctions ever imposed on a country" on Iran's central bank.

The backdrop: His statement comes after he tweeted earlier this week that he had instructed Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to "substantially" increase sanctions against Iran. Beyond Trump's statement in the Oval, the administration has not released any further details.

Go deeperArrowUpdated Sep 20, 2019