TEHRAN: Iran has dismissed accusations by the United States that Tehran was behind drone attacks that set ablaze two major Saudi Aramco oil installations, as Saudi Arabia raced to restore operations at the damaged facilities.
Yemen’s Houthi rebels claimed responsibility for Saturday’s assault on Abqaiq – the world’s largest oil processing plant – and the Khurais oilfield. The pre-dawn strikes knocked out more than half of crude output from the world’s top exporter.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo blamed Iran, saying it “has now launched an unprecedented attack on the world’s energy supply”.
Having failed at “max pressure”, @SecPompeo‘s turning to “max deceit”
US & its clients are stuck in Yemen because of illusion that weapon superiority will lead to military victory.
Blaming Iran won’t end disaster. Accepting our April ’15 proposal to end war & begin talks may.
— Javad Zarif (@JZarif) September 15, 2019
“There is no evidence the attacks came from Yemen,” Pompeo said on Twitter, referring to the Houthis’ claim of responsibility. He did not provide any evidence to support his claim.
In response, Iran’s foreign ministry on Sunday called the US allegations “meaningless” and said they were meant to justify actions against Iran.
“Such remarks … are more like plotting by intelligence and secret organizations to damage the reputation of a country and create a framework for future actions,” spokesman Abbas Mousavi said.
Tensions between the US and Iran have escalated since May last year when Washington unilaterally pulled out of a 2015 multinational deal that promised Tehran relief from sanctions in return for curbs on its nuclear programme.
Since its withdrawal, the US has slapped crippling sanctions on Iran as part of a campaign of “maximum pressure”.
“Having failed at ‘max pressure’, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo turning to ‘max deceit’,” Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif wrote on Twitter on Sunday.
“US and its clients are stuck in Yemen because of illusion that weapon superiority will lead to military victory,” he added, calling for talks to end the war in the Arab world’s most impoverished country.
With support from the US, Saudi Arabia has been leading since March 2015 a military coalition fighting the Houthis in support of Yemen’s internationally recognised government.
The war has killed tens of thousands of people, thrust millions to the brink of famine and spawned the world’s most devastating humanitarian crisis.
Human rights groups have criticised the Saudi-led coalition for targeting civilians at hospitals, schools and markets, while also condemning Western countries for providing it with arms. In April, US President Donald Trump vetoed a bipartisan resolution that would have forced the US military to end its support to the coalition forces.
In a phone call on Saturday, Trump told Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman that Washington was ready to work with the kingdom to guarantee its security, according to a statement by the White House.
MBS, Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler, told Trump the kingdom was “willing and able” to respond to the drone attacks.
Saudi Arabia has long accused Iran of supplying the Houthis with missiles and drones, a charge both Iran and the group reject – Iran says it supports the rebels diplomatically and politically but denies providing them with any military aid.
Meanwhile, Washington’s accusations throw into doubt reported efforts by Trump to arrange a meeting with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani at the United Nations General Assembly later this month.
“This is being seen by many here as an attempt yet again to try to pressure Iran to have this meeting,” Al Jazeera’s Dorsa Jabbari, reporting from Tehran, said.