Iran on Sunday forcefully rejected charges by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that it was responsible for drone attacks that caused serious damage to two crucial Saudi Arabian oil installations, with a spokesman for the Foreign Ministry dismissing his remarks as “maximum lies.”
The attacks on Saturday, which hold the potential to disrupt global oil supplies, were claimed by Houthi rebels in Yemen. Mr. Pompeo said that Iran had launched “an unprecedented attack on the world’s oil supply,” although he stopped short of saying that it had carried out the missile strikes.
The Houthis are part of a complex regional dynamic in the Middle East, receiving support from Iran while the Saudis, Tehran’s chief rival for supremacy in the region and the leader of a coalition that is fighting the Houthis in Yemen, are aligned with the United States.
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Saudi Arabia thought a bombing campaign would quickly crush its enemies in Yemen. But three years later, the Houthis refuse to give up, even as 14 million people face starvation.
Seyed Abbas Mousavi, a spokesman for the Iranian Foreign Ministry, castigated the Saudis for their role in the war in Yemen, where the Saudis have directed airstrikes that have caused heavy civilian casualties and exacerbated a humanitarian crisis. He also ridiculed Mr. Pompeo’s comments.
The semiofficial Fars news agency reported on its English-language website that Mr. Mousavi described Mr. Pompeo’s allegations as “blind and fruitless remarks” that were “meaningless” in a diplomatic context. Saudi Arabia has yet to publicly accuse Iran of involvement in the attack.
The developments come at a moment of rising tensions between Iran and the United States, which have mounted since President Trump pulled out of the 2015 accord in which Iran agreed with the West to restrict its nuclear program. Since the American withdrawal, Iran has gradually pulled away from its some obligations under the agreement.
“The Americans have opted for a policy named maximum pressure,” Mr. Mousavi said, according to Fars, “but it has apparently tilted towards maximum lies for their failures.”
The Trump administration has said that any attack on American interests from Iran would bring a military response, but it has not made clear whether an attack on the Saudi oil infrastructure would meet that threshold.
Mr. Pompeo issued his response on Twitter late Saturday, specifically taking aim at the president of Iran, Hassan Rouhani, and its foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, accusing them of pretending to engage in diplomacy while directing numerous attacks.
“Amid all the calls for de-escalation, Iran has now launched an unprecedented attack on the world’s energy supply,” Mr. Pompeo wrote. “There is no evidence the attacks came from Yemen.”
The missile that hit the Saudi facilities struck 500 miles from Yemeni territory, but officials there and in the United States believe Iran has trained the Houthis to use drone and missile technology.
The Houthis have acquired drones that could have a range of up to 930 miles, according to United Nations investigators. It is not yet clear whether the drones that hit the Saudi oil facilities came from Yemen or another country, or even within Saudi Arabia.
“We call on all nations to publicly and unequivocally condemn Iran’s attacks,” Mr. Pompeo wrote. “The United States will work with our partners and allies to ensure that energy markets remain well supplied and Iran is held accountable for its aggression.”