Sep 20, 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.

"The president has approved the deployment of U.S. forces which will be defensive in nature and primarily focused on air and missile defense."
— Mark Esper on Friday

The big picture via the Washington Post: "The decision to send a modest number of military personnel marks the second time in recent months that the United States has boosted its presence in the region in response to Iranian actions."

The state of play: Last weekend's attack triggered the biggest spike in crude prices in several decades. Iran denies involvement in the attacks and Foreign Minister Javad Zarif warned of "all-out war" if anyone attacks Iran.

  • 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.
  • Pompeo ramped up his rhetoric enroute to the Saudi Arabian city of Jeddah, telling reporters that Iran had committed an "act of war." He again dismissed the claim by Yemen's Houthi rebels, backed by Iran, that they were behind the airstrikes.
  • Earlier on Friday, President Trump told reporters he had issued the "highest sanctions ever imposed on a country" on Iran's central bank.

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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

U.S. hits Iran with cyberattack following Saudi oil bombings

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The U.S. has allegedly carried out another cyberattack against Iran in the wake of attacks on Saudi oil facilities in September, two unnamed U.S. officials told Reuters.

Why it matters, per Axios' Joe Uchill: This is the second publicly revealed round of cyberattacks in response to real world attacks, after U.S. Cyber Command targeted Iran following the downing of a U.S. drone in July. The U.S. and many of its allies have blamed Iran for the Saudi oil attacks, but Iran has vigorously denied the allegations.

Go deeperArrowOct 16, 2019

Pompeo doubles down on claim of Iranian "act of war" in Saudi Arabia

Pompeo this week at the UN. Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo declared today that he had been right to label attacks on Saudi oil facilities an “act of war” by Iran, but said Iran would fail to “goad us into conflict.”

The big picture: The U.K., France and Germany accused Iran yesterday of responsibility for the Sept. 14 attacks. Iran has denied responsibility for the attacks in Saudi Arabia, accused the U.S. of “deception" and warned of "all-out war" if attacked.

Go deeperArrowSep 25, 2019