U.S. backs Saudis’ ‘right to defend itself’

Iranian regime’s threatening behaviour will not be tolerated, says US. Secretary of State Pompeo

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Thursday that America backs Saudi Arabia’s “right to defend itself” after a weekend attack targeted the heart of its oil industry, comments coming after he described the assault as an “act of war”.

The attacks have reignited fears over a wider conflagration in the region, as tensions remain high over Iran’s collapsing nuclear deal with world powers.

Mr. Pompeo’s comments on Twitter came as he was in Jiddah, Saudi Arabia, after meeting with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the Kingdom’s Defense Minister. The Saudis on Wednesday displayed missile and drone wreckage at a press conference, and cited other evidence they alleged shows the raid was “unquestionably sponsored by Iran”.

Iran, which has denied involvement in the attack, warned the U.S. it will retaliate immediately if it is targeted. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif separately accused U.S. allies and officials of trying to “deceive” President Donald Trump into entering a war against Tehran.

Mr. Pompeo wrote his tweet early Thursday after his meeting with Prince Mohammed over Saturday’s drone and cruise missile attack on a crucial oil processing facility and oil field. Yemen’s Iranian-backed Houthi rebels have claimed the attack, but the U.S. alleges Iran carried out the assault.

Mr. Pompeo called the attacks “unprecedented.”

“The U.S. stands with Saudi Arabia and supports its right to defend itself,” Mr. Pompeo said. “The Iranian regime’s threatening behaviour will not be tolerated.”

President Donald Trump has been noncommittal on whether he would order U.S. military retaliation. He separately said on Wednesday that he is moving to increase financial sanctions on Tehran over the attack, without elaborating. Iran already is subject to a crushing American sanctions program targeting its crucial oil industry.

The UAE announced on Thursday it had joined a U.S.-led coalition to protect waterways across the Mideast after an attack on Saudi oil installations.

The state-run WAM news agency quoted Salem al-Zaabi of the Emirati Foreign Ministry as saying the UAE joined the coalition to “ensure global energy security.” Saudi Arabia joined the coalition on Wednesday. Australia, Bahrain and the U.K are also taking part.

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