RIYADH, KSA: Saudi Arabia said strikes on its oil infrastructure were carried out from the north and “unquestionably” sponsored by Iran, but the kingdom was still investigating the exact location of they were launched from.
Showing wreckage of the weapons used at a press conference on Wednesday, a defence ministry spokesman said there was no way the attacks could have been launched from Yemen, as claimed by the Iran-aligned Houthi rebels.
Colonel Turki al-Malki said the recovered drone and missile parts provided “undeniable” evidence of Iranian aggression.
I have just instructed the Secretary of the Treasury to substantially increase Sanctions on the country of Iran!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 18, 2019
Al-Malki said a total of 18 drones and seven missiles were launched, including what he called Iranian Delta Wing unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).
Saudi officials said the missile on display, which had what appeared to be a jet engine attached to it, was a land-attack cruise missile that failed to explode.
“The attack was launched from the north and unquestionably sponsored by Iran,” he told reporters. “We are working to know the exact launch point.”
Al-Malki said the cruise missiles had a range of 700 kilometers, meaning they could not have been fired from inside Yemen. He played surveillance video he said showed a drone coming in from the north.
“This is the kind of weapon the Iranian regime and the Iranian IRGC are using against the civilian facilities,” he said, using an acronym for Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard Corps.
However, al-Malki did not directly blame Iran for the attack when asked by journalists. He said once “the culprits” were definitively identified they would “be held accountable”.
Iran has denied involvement and warned the United States it would retaliate “immediately” if targeted over the attacks.
Saudi Arabia proved “it knows nothing”, an adviser to Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani said, after al-Malki’s presentation.
Met with #Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman today to discuss the unprecedented attacks against Saudi Arabia’s oil infrastructure. The U.S. stands with #SaudiArabia and supports its right to defend itself. The Iranian regime’s threatening behavior will not be tolerated.
— Secretary Pompeo (@SecPompeo) September 18, 2019
“The press conference proved that Saudi Arabia knows nothing about where the missiles and drones were made or launched from, and failed to explain why the country’s defence system failed to intercept them,” Hesameddin Ashena wrote on Twitter.
“It puts those countries in the Middle East that may host US bases or assets but also have relations with Iran in a very difficult position, because essentially they also may become targets if a conflict breaks out.”
Tehran has stuck with its account that the Houthi rebels were responsible.
Rouhani said on Wednesday Houthi carried out the attack as a “warning” about a possible wider war in response to the Saudi-led intervention in Yemen.
But al-Malki said: “Despite Iran’s efforts to make it appear so”, the attack did not originate from Yemen, it was beyond the capabilities of the Houthi militia – who have, however, mounted dozens of smaller attacks on Saudi territory.
The US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo described attacks on Saudi oil facilities as an “act of war” by Iran. Tehran has denied a role in the attacks and said it would retaliate if targeted.
The incident has further escalated tensions in the region amid the collapse of Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers and a series of confrontations in the Gulf.