Donald Trump says it ‘looks like’ Iran was behind Saudi oil attack

‘I don’t want war with anybody, but we are prepared more than anybody’

US president Donald Trump speaks with Salman bin Hamad Al-Khalifa, Crown Prince of Bahrain, left, during a meeting at the White House. Photograph: Chris Kleponis/Polaris/Bloomberg

US president Donald Trump speaks with Salman bin Hamad Al-Khalifa, Crown Prince of Bahrain, left, during a meeting at the White House. Photograph: Chris Kleponis/Polaris/Bloomberg

 

US president Donald Trump delivered mixed messages on Iran on Monday as the fallout from the weekend attack on Saudi Arabia’s oil facilities continued, prompting fears of escalating hostilities in the region.

Speaking alongside the crown prince of Bahrain in the Oval Office, Mr Trump said that the evidence was pointing to Iran being behind the attacks on key Saudi oil infrastructure.

“It’s looking that way. We’re having some very strong studies done, but it’s certainly looking that way at the moment,” he said.

He insisted that he did not want war, but said that the United States was more prepared than ever.

“We have the best equipment, the best missiles in the world,” he said. “I don’t want war with anybody, but we are prepared more than anybody.”

The attack on the Saudi oil facilities was “a very large attack,” he said, but warned that it could be met by an attack many times larger.

“I’m not looking to get into new conflict, but sometimes you have to….We have military power the likes of which the world has never seen.”

His comments came a day after he warned that the US is “locked and loaded” as he accused the regime of being behind Saturday’s attack, prompting speculation that an armed conflict could be under consideration.

While Yemeni Houthis have claimed responsibility for the attack on the Aramco oil facilities, the Trump administration is insisting that Iran - which is backing the Houthi group in the ongoing war in Yemen – is responsible.

The administration released  images which officials said where at least 17 points of impact in Saudi Arabia following the attacks early on Saturday morning. The attacks came from the north or northwest the officials said, underlining their belief that Iran, and not Yemeni based aggressors, were responsible.  They have also cast doubt over the ability of Houthi rebels to mount such a sophisticated exercise.

During his oval office appearance, Mr Trump was also asked if he had promised Saudi Arabia that the United States will protect the Kingdom. He replied: “No, I haven’t. We have to sit down with the Saudis and work something out. That was an attack on Saudi Arabia, that wasn’t an attack on us, but we would certainly help them.”

Nonetheless, he noted that Saudi was a “great ally” of the United States who have spent over $400 billion in the country over the last number of years. Describing how he picks up the phone to Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman when he is concerned about oil prices, and then prices come down he said. “No other president can do that.”

He also disclosed that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo would be travelling to Saudi Arabia to discuss the situation.

Earlier, Riyadh moved closer to blaming Iran for the attacks, stating that Iranian weapons had been used, and noting that attacks had not been launched in Yemen.

The suspected drone attacks on Saturday hit at the core of Saudi Arabia’s oil infrastructure, cutting daily production by half and leading to a surge in the price of crude oil when markets opened on Monday.

Mr Trump’s belligerent language since Saturday’s attacks have raised fears that the US could be prepared to retaliate – a marked contrast to the messaging from the White House last week when the president indicated he would be prepared to meet Iranian president Hassan Rouhani.

But Iran ruled out the possibility of a meeting next week at the United Nations’ general assembly.  “Neither is such an event on our agenda, nor will it happen. Such a meeting will not take place,” an Iranian foreign ministry spokesman said on state-run media.