WASHINGTON/USA – The United States believes the attacks that crippled Saudi Arabian oil facilities last weekend originated in southwestern Iran, a U.S., official told Reuters on Tuesday, an assessment that further increases tensions in the Middle East.
Three officials, speaking to Reuters on condition of anonymity, said the attacks involved both cruise missiles and drones, indicating that they involved a higher degree of complexity and sophistication than initially thought.
The officials did not provide evidence or explain what U.S. intelligence they were using for the evaluations. Such intelligence, if shared publicly, could further pressure Washington, Riyadh and others to respond, perhaps even militarily.
Iran denies involvement in the strikes. Iran’s allies in Yemen’s civil war, the Houthi movement, claimed responsibility for the attacks. The Houthies say they struck the plants with drones, some of which were powered by jet engines.
U.S. President Donald Trump on Monday said it looked as if Iran – which has a long history of friction with neighbor Saudi Arabia – was behind the attacks.
But in a sign that U.S. allies remain unconvinced, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said he was unsure if anyone halved oil output, saying on Tuesday that full production is now back.
Iran’s clerical rulers openly support the Houthis, who are fighting a Saudi-led coalition in Yemen, but Tehran denies that it actively supports the Yemeni group with military and financial support.
Despite years of air strikes against them, the Houthi militia boasts drones and missiles able to reach deep into Saudi Arabia, the result of an armament campaign pursued and expanded energetically since Yemen’s war began four years ago.
Saudi Arabia has asked international experts to join its investigation, which indicates the attacks did not come from Yemen, the Saudi foreign ministry said.
One of the three U.S. officials expressed confidence that Saudi Arabia’s collection of materials following the attacks would yield “compelling forensic evidence…that will point to where this attack came from”.
A U.S. team is helping Saudi Arabia evaluate evidence from the attacks, e which hit crucial facilities of Saudi state-owned oil company Aramco in Abqaiq and Khurais and initially cut Saudi oil production in half.
The Saudi energy minister said on Tuesday that oil production is fully back online after the attacks and that the kingdom will achieve 11 million barrels per day capacity by the end of September.
Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman also told a news conference that the world’s top oil exporter would keep full oil supplies to customers this month.
He said Saudi Arabia would keep its role as the secure supplier of global oil markets, adding that the kingdom needed to take strict measures to prevent further attacks, which exposed the vulnerability of Saudi Arabia’s oil industry and the broader global economy.