Iran warns US or Saudi attack would trigger 'all-out war'

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Jeddah on Wednesday to discuss last Saturday's drone and cruise missile attacks on an oil processing facility and oil field in the kingdom. PHOTO: EPA-EFE
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Jeddah on Wednesday to discuss last Saturday's drone and cruise missile attacks on an oil processing facility and oil field in the kingdom. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

Teheran stands firm as adversaries accuse it of strike on Saudi oil facilities last Saturday

DUBAI • Any US or Saudi military strike against Iran would bring "all-out war", Teheran said yesterday, keeping up a drumbeat of warnings to its adversaries after they accused the Islamic Republic of a strike on Saudi oil facilities.

"I am making a very serious statement that we don't want war; we don't want to engage in a military confrontation... But we won't blink to defend our territory," Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif told CNN in an interview.

Asked what the consequence of an American or a Saudi military strike on Iran would be, Mr Zarif said "an all-out war".

The United States has been discussing with Saudi Arabia and other Gulf allies possible responses to the attack, which US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo described as an act of war on the kingdom.

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

Mr Pompeo yesterday said the US backs Saudi Arabia's "right to defend itself" after the weekend attack targeted the heart of the kingdom's oil industry.

"We are still striving to build out a coalition in an act of diplomacy while the foreign minister of Iran is threatening all-out war and to fight to the last American, we're here to build up a coalition aimed at achieving peace. We'd like a peaceful resolution. I hope the Islamic Republic of Iran sees it the same way," he told reporters after talks with the leaders of the United Arab Emirates, following Saturday's attacks.

WON'T BLINK

I am making a very serious statement that we don't want war; we don't want to engage in a military confrontation... But we won't blink to defend our territory.

IRANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER MOHAMMED JAVAD ZARIF

The UAE is a close ally of Saudi Arabia and joined the kingdom in its war in Yemen against the Houthis. The UAE announced yesterday it had joined the US-led coalition to protect waterways across the Middle East after the attack on Saudi oil installations. The state-run WAM news agency quoted Mr 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 Britain are also taking part. The US formed the coalition after attacks on oil tankers that Washington blames on Iran, as well as Iran's seizure of tankers in the region.

 
 
 
 

Iran denies being behind the tanker explosions, though the attacks came after Teheran threatened to stop oil exports from the Persian Gulf.

Meanwhile, the Saudis on Wednesday displayed missile and drone wreckage at a press conference, and cited other evidence they alleged shows last Saturday's strike was "unquestionably sponsored by Iran". Military spokesman Turki Al-Malki played surveillance video that he said showed a drone coming in from the north. The attack was claimed by Yemen's Iran-aligned Houthi group. Yemen is to the south of Saudi Arabia. Eighteen drones and seven cruise missiles were launched in the assault, Colonel Malki said, with three missiles failing to make their targets. He said the cruise missiles had a range of 700km, meaning they could not have been fired from inside Yemen.

Iran, which has denied involvement in the attack, sent a note to the US via Swiss diplomats on Monday, reiterating that Teheran denies involvement in the aerial attack, the country's state-run Irna news agency reported. "If any action takes place against Iran, the action will be faced by Iran's answer immediately," Irna quoted the note as saying. It added that Iran's response would not be limited to the source of the threat.

Mr Zarif had earlier warned on Twitter that what he described as the B team - including Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman - was deceiving US President Donald Trump into a war against Iran.

Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said that Washington and Riyadh had accused Teheran "because they don't believe the oppressed Yemeni nation has reached such a capability", the state news agency Irna reported. And the semi-official news agency Isna quoted Rear Admiral Habibollah Sayyari as saying Iran's adversaries would regret any aggression against it.

Mr Trump struck a cautious note on Wednesday, saying there were many options short of war, and he ordered more sanctions on Iran.

Mr Zarif also said in a tweet yesterday that Mr Pompeo was trying to delay issuing visas for the Iranian delegation to the upcoming United Nations General Assembly. Mr Trump has said he is not looking to meet Iranian President Hassan Rouhani during a UN event in New York this month.

France has said the New York gathering presented a chance to de-escalate tensions. "There is an international investigation, let's wait for its results."

REUTERS, ASSOCIATED PRESS

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 20, 2019, with the headline 'Iran warns US or Saudi attack would trigger 'all-out war''. Print Edition | Subscribe