EghtesadOnline: US President Donald Trump claimed on Monday that Iran appeared to have been responsible for the weekend attack on Saudi Arabian oil facilities, but said he would “like to avoid” a military conflict with Tehran and emphasized his interest in diplomacy.
Asked at the White House whether Iran was behind the strikes on Saturday that crippled much of Saudi Arabia’s oil output, Trump said, “It’s looking that way.”
But he stopped short of a definitive confirmation, adding “that’s being checked out right now”, the New York Times reported.
The attack was the most destructive blow to Saudi Arabia since it began waging war in Yemen more than four years ago. The damage inside Saudi Arabia helped drive world oil prices up by 10% on Monday, according to Financial Tribune.
Trump asserted that the US has enormous military capabilities and is prepared for war, if necessary.
“With all that being said, we’d certainly like to avoid it,” he said. “I know they want to make a deal,” he claimed of Iranian officials, whom he has been trying to draw into talks over their nuclear program and other issues. “At some point, it will work out.”
Trump’s comments represented a notable shift in tone from the day before, when he wrote on Twitter that the US was “locked and loaded”, ready to take action based on Saudi needs.
On Monday, he told reporters he had not “promised” to protect the Saudis. Rather, Trump said, he will “sit down with the Saudis and work something out”.
No Appetite for Escalation
The US president’s statements came shortly after Saudi Arabia claimed Iranian weapons had been used in the attack. But while the Saudis said they would “forcefully respond to these aggressions”, they also stopped short of directly blaming Iran and did not call for immediate retaliation.
The comments from Trump and the Saudis suggested they did not want the episode to escalate into a wider conflict, just a week before world leaders converge at the United Nations for the General Assembly.
Trump had proposed meeting Iran’s president, Hassan Rouhani, possibly at the annual gathering in New York, although Iran has ruled that out.
Responsibility for the attack was claimed by the Houthi fighters in Yemen, who have been fighting a war against a Saudi-led military coalition. Iran is a chief ally of the Houthis.
American officials had earlier directly blamed Iran over the weekend for the attacks on Saudi oil facilities.