Trump warns of Iran's 'official end' as tensions rise

US President Donald Trump tweeted that a conflict would be the "official end" of Iran, as Saudi Arabia warned that it stood ready to respond with "all strength" and said it was up to Iran to avoid war.
US President Donald Trump tweeted that a conflict would be the "official end" of Iran, as Saudi Arabia warned that it stood ready to respond with "all strength" and said it was up to Iran to avoid war.PHOTO: AFP

He tweets new threat in wake of recent attacks on Saudi oil installations, tankers

RIYADH • US President Donald Trump has issued a new threat to Teheran, tweeting that a conflict would be the "official end" of Iran, as Saudi Arabia warned that it stood ready to respond with "all strength" and said it was up to Iran to avoid war.

The heightened rhetoric follows last week's attacks on Saudi oil assets and the firing of a rocket on Sunday into Baghdad's heavily fortified "Green Zone" that exploded near the United States embassy.

"If Iran wants to fight, that will be the official end of Iran. Never threaten the United States again!" Mr Trump said in a tweet on Sunday, without elaborating.

A US State Department official said the rocket attack in Baghdad did not hit a US-inhabited facility and there were no casualties or any significant damage. No claims of responsibility have been made, but the US was taking the incident "very seriously."

"We have made clear over the past two weeks and again underscore that attacks on US personnel and facilities will not be tolerated and will be responded to in a decisive manner," the official said in an e-mailed statement. "We will hold Iran responsible if any such attacks are conducted by its proxy militia forces or elements of such forces, and will respond to Iran accordingly."

Riyadh, which emphasised that it does not want a war, has accused Teheran of ordering last Tuesday's drone strikes on two oil pumping stations in the kingdom, claimed by Yemen's Iran-aligned Houthi group. Two days earlier, four vessels, including two Saudi tankers, were sabotaged off the coast of the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

In response, countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) began "enhanced security patrols" in the international waters of the Arabian Gulf area last Saturday.

 
 
 

Iran has denied involvement in both incidents, which come as Washington and the Islamic Republic spar over sanctions and the US military presence in the region, raising concerns about a potential US-Iran conflict.

"The kingdom of Saudi Arabia does not want a war in the region nor does it seek that," Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel al-Jubeir told a news conference on Sunday. "It will do what it can to prevent this war and at the same time it reaffirms that in the event the other side chooses war, the kingdom will respond with all force and determination, and it will defend itself and its interests."

Saudi Arabia's King Salman on Sunday invited Gulf and Arab leaders to convene emergency summits in Mecca on May 30 to discuss implications of the attacks.

"The current critical circumstances entail a unified Arab and Gulf stance towards the besetting challenges and risks," the UAE foreign ministry said in a statement.

The US Navy's Fifth Fleet said in a statement about increased maritime patrols that GCC countries were "specifically increasing communication and coordination with each other in support of regional naval cooperation and maritime security operations in the Arabian Gulf", with navies and coast guards working with the US Navy.

The UAE, Saudi Arabia's Sunni Muslim ally, has not blamed anyone for the tanker sabotage, pending an inquiry. No-one has claimed responsibility, but two US government sources last week said officials believed Iran had encouraged the Houthi group or Iraq-based Shi'ite militias to carry it out.

The drone strikes on oil pumping stations, which Riyadh said did not disrupt output or exports, were claimed by the Houthis, who have been battling a Saudi-led military coalition in a war in Yemen since 2015.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 21, 2019, with the headline 'Trump warns of Iran's 'official end' as tensions rise'. Print Edition | Subscribe