WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump on Wednesday announced what he said would be substantial new sanctions against Iran in the first response to what officials say was likely Iranian involvement in an attack on Saudi oil facilities.
“I have just instructed the Secretary of the Treasury to substantially increase Sanctions on the country of Iran!” Trump said in a tweet.
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
The United States already enforces widespread sanctions that have crippled Iran’s economy, including attempting to shut down its major oil export industry.
A US official had told Reuters the strikes originated in southwestern Iran. Three officials said they involved cruise missiles and drones, indicating a higher degree of complexity and sophistication than initially thought.
‘Almost certainly’ Iranian-backed
The move by Trump, who earlier said he did not want war and was coordinating with Gulf and European states, came shortly after Saudi Arabia promised evidence linking its main regional adversary, Iran, to the unprecedented attack on its oil industry in a perilous escalation of Middle East frictions.
The Saudi Defence Ministry said it would present “material evidence and Iranian weapons proving the Iranian regime’s involvement in the terrorist attack” at a news conference on Wednesday at 1430 GMT.
Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said the hit on the world’s biggest crude exporter was a “real test of the global will” to confront subversion of international order.
His envoy to London, Prince Khalid bin Bander, told the BBC the attack was “almost certainly” Iranian-backed but: “We’re trying not to react too quickly because the last thing we need is more conflict in the region.”
‘Who started the conflict?’
Concrete evidence showing Iranian responsibility, if made public, could pressure Riyadh and Washington into a response, though both nations were stressing the need for caution.
Iran, on the other hand, again denied involvement in the September 14 raids, which hit the world’s biggest crude processing facility and initially knocked out half of Saudi production.
“They want to impose maximum … pressure on Iran through slander,” Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani said.
“We don’t want conflict in the region … Who started the conflict?” he added, blaming Washington and its Gulf allies for war in Yemen.