Iran warned Thursday that military action by the United States or Saudi Arabia would result in “all-out war,” as the Trump administration weighed its response after blaming Iran for a wave of strikes that crippled the kingdom’s oil infrastructure.
In an interview with CNN, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif denied involvement in the attacks and warned that retaliatory strikes risked causing significant bloodshed on Iranian soil. “I am making a very serious statement that we don’t want to engage in a military confrontation,” said Zarif.
“But we won’t blink to defend our territory.”
His remarks follow those of his American counterpart, Mike Pompeo, who described the attack on Wednesday as an “act of war” and specifically said it was an “Iranian attack,” despite claims of responsibility from a rebel group in Yemen known as the Houthis.
Pompeo is in the United Arab Emirates on Thursday following a visit to Saudi Arabia to confer with U.S. allies. He tweeted U.S. support for Saudi Arabia “to defend itself. The Iranian regime’s threatening behavior will not be tolerated.”
The attacks on Saudi Arabia’s Abqaiq and Khurais oil facilities caused the kingdom’s production to half, and sent global prices soaring.
Both Washington and Riyadh have presented physical evidence and other details that they said bolstered their assertions of direct Iranian culpability.
But as tensions simmer, President Trump himself has sent mixed signals over Washington’s willingness to respond with force. “There are many options. There’s the ultimate option and there are options a lot less than that,” the president told reporters in Los Angeles, while announcing a move to increase sanctions on Iran.
In a news conference Wednesday, a spokesman for the Saudi military, Col. Turki al-Malki, said that 18 unmanned aerial vehicles had attacked an oil processing plant in Abqaiq in eastern Saudi Arabia. Seven cruise missiles, he added, were fired at a facility in Khurais, the site of one of the kingdom’s largest oil fields. Three of the cruise missiles fell short, he said.
The attacks were “unquestionably sponsored by Iran” and had not originated in Yemen, Malki said, basing the assertion in part on the purported range of the weapons recovered, which he said could not have traveled from Houthi-held territory. But Saudi officials had not determined from where the weapons were launched.
The Houthis, which have been fighting a nearly five year war against a Saudi-led coalition in Yemen reiterated that it was behind the attack with domestically-designed weaponry.
“Our forces have reached a high level of efficiency and ability. They can manufacture various types of unmanned aerial vehicles in record time,” Houthi military spokesman Yahya Saree said in a news conference late Wednesday.
The Houthi claim has been met with a strong degree of skepticism from experts and government officials.
“The Houthis announced that they launched this attack. That lacks credibility,” French Foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told a French TV station on Thursday. He also called the attack an “act of war” though declined to speculate who was behind it.