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Pompeo discusses with Gulf allies how to respond to Iran’s “war”

UNITED STATES, WASHINGTON (OBSERVATORY) — US Secretary of State Mark Pompeo will discuss with Gulf allies in Abu Dhabi on Thursday a possible response to the attack on Aramco, which Washington said was a “war act” by Iran.

US militancy against Iran raises fears of a dramatic escalation in the fragile region in the wake of Saturday’s unprecedented attack that halted nearly half of Saudi daily oil production.

Pompeo arrives in Abu Dhabi from Jeddah where he met Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who considered the attack a real test of the will of the international community.

According to State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus, the two sides agreed that the attack was “unacceptable” and that it “not only threatened Saudi national security but also the lives of Americans living and working in the kingdom as well as global energy supplies in general.”

They also discussed “the necessity of uniting the international community to face the constant threat posed by the Iranian regime, and they agreed on the need to hold the Iranian regime accountable for its continued aggressive, reckless and threatening behavior.”

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told reporters at the start of his visit to Saudi Arabia that the attack was “an act of war” by Iran.

In Riyadh, pieces of missiles and drones that Saudi Arabia said were used in the operation against the world’s largest oil processing plant at Abqaiq and the Khurais oilfield in the east of the kingdom were shown at a news conference on Wednesday.

“The attack was launched from the north … with the support of Iran without a doubt,” said military spokesman Colonel Turki al-Maliki, without identifying Iran as the source of the attack.

“We are continuing our investigation to determine the exact location from which drones and missiles were launched,” he said, adding that the attackers used 18 drones and seven cruise missiles.

– New sanctions –

Houthi rebels in Yemen, backed by Tehran, have claimed responsibility for the attack, saying they carried it out by drones, but Washington said it was convinced Washington had launched the operation from Iran.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said on Thursday that the possibility that Houthi rebels carried out the attack on the two oil facilities in Saudi Arabia “lacks some credibility.”

Shortly after Maliki’s conference, the insurgents returned and renewed their adoption of the operation, which they called Operation Deterrence Balance II, saying it was “carried out in a number of drones.”

In recent months, insurgents have carried out dozens of drones against facilities in the kingdom, including Jizan and Abha airports in the south of the kingdom.

The rebels have also threatened attacks against the UAE, saying they have “dozens of targets” in Abu Dhabi and Dubai. “The UAE regime is saying: ‘One operation will only cost you a lot,'” rebel forces spokesman Yahya Serai told a news conference in Sanaa.

The UAE is a member of the Saudi-led military alliance in Yemen in the face of Iranian-backed Houthi rebels. The rebels have already threatened to hit targets in the UAE and have also announced the targeting of Abu Dhabi and Dubai airports, a charge denied by the UAE authorities.

US President Donald Trump has said he has “many options” to respond to Iran, announcing new sanctions “within 48 hours.”

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif accused Washington of “deliberately targeting” Iranian civilians by tightening its sanctions.

The sanctions add to the unprecedented punitive measures imposed by Washington on Tehran after Trump withdrew in May 2018 from the international agreement on Iran’s nuclear program, which he considers inadequate to prevent the Islamic Republic from acquiring a nuclear weapon, as well as accusing it of destabilizing the Middle East.

– Goals List –

According to the New York Times, US military response plans include a list of targets in Iran, including the Abadan facility, one of the largest oil refineries, and the Kharg Island, home to the country’s largest oil facility.

The list also includes sites from which missiles may have been fired into Saudi Arabia, and other Revolutionary Guards bases in southwestern Iran, where the region has seen movements linked to the Aramco strike.

“Any strike against Iran is likely to be carried out by bursts of cruise missiles launched from naval ships. If Iran responds to the first strike, aircraft will strike again,” the newspaper said.

Shinzia Bianco, a Middle East expert at the European Council on Foreign Relations, said the situation could deteriorate into “uncontrolled events.”

“There is uncertainty in Saudi Arabia about the best way to act. But the thinking is that the United States will strike important facilities in Iran to minimize or exclude any civilian casualties.”

On Wednesday, CBS News quoted a US official as saying that Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, had assaulted the attack on condition that it be carried out in a way that would discredit any Iranian involvement.

US officials said in the report that the evidence against Iran is satellite images that have not yet been published, showing IRGC forces making arrangements for the attack at the Ahvaz airbase.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said UN experts had been sent to Saudi Arabia for an international investigation into the attacks.

Amid tensions, the UAE and Saudi Arabia have joined a US-led naval force to secure shipping in the Gulf.

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