As tension rises in the Gulf, US President Donald Trump on Tuesday (September 18th) dispatched his diplomatic chief, Mike Pompeo, to Jeddah to discuss the response to drone attacks on Saudi oil facilities. While being claimed by the Yemeni Houthi rebels, Washington is convinced that the attacks were carried out from Iran with cruise missiles.
Mike Pompeo will meet with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on Wednesday to "coordinate efforts to counter Iranian aggression in the region," the State Department said.
Vice President Mike Pence also said Mike Pompeo was on his way to the kingdom to "discuss our response". "As the president said, we do not want to go to war with anyone, but the United States is prepared," he said in a speech in Washington. "I promise you: we are ready ... We are ready to respond and we are ready to defend our interests and our allies in the region," he said.
The United States is confident that attacks on two important oil sites in eastern Saudi Arabia have been carried out from Iranian soil and that cruise missiles have been used, AFP quoted a senior official as saying on Tuesday. American.
The US intelligence services have elements that can locate the origin of the shots, said the official speaking on condition of anonymity. Washington is preparing a case to prove its claims and convince the international community, including Europeans, at the UN General Assembly next week, he added.
So far, while pointing an accusing finger at Tehran, Donald Trump has been less categorical, saying Monday wait to be certain and want to consult with Riyadh on any possible response.
"Our intelligence services are analyzing the evidence at this very moment," said Mike Pence, adding that Donald Trump would decide what to do next "in the coming days."
The United States "denies" reality when accusing Tehran of being responsible for the attacks, Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said Tuesday.
While on Sunday, the White House said that Donald Trump did not rule out the possibility of meeting with Iranian President Hassan Rohani at the UN General Assembly in New York, the US president appeared on Tuesday to rule out such a meeting. "I never exclude anything, but I prefer not to meet him," he said.
Tehran had earlier ruled out negotiations with the United States at the United Nations. "If the United States [...] repents for having withdrawn" in 2018 from the Iranian nuclear deal, and they decide to return to it, "then they will be able to participate in discussions between the Iran and other members "parties to this agreement, said Ali Khamenei, the Iranian Supreme Leader.
"Otherwise, no negotiations will take place between the Islamic Republic and US officials at any level" whatsoever, "in New York" or elsewhere, the Ayatollah added.
France will send experts to Arabia
For its part, France will send experts to Saudi Arabia to investigate the drone attacks, announced Wednesday the Elysee. Emmanuel Macron "strongly condemned" these attacks in a Tuesday telephone interview with Saudi Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman, the French presidency said in a statement.
"In response to the request of the Saudi authorities," he "confirmed to the Crown Prince the sending to Saudi Arabia of French experts to participate in investigations to shed light on the origin and modalities of the attacks of 14 September ", it is specified.
"He assured the Crown Prince of France's solidarity with Saudi Arabia and its people in the face of these attacks and reaffirmed France's commitment to Saudi Arabia's security and the stability of the region. ", adds the Élysée.
The attacks revived fears of escalation with Iran, as Washington and Tehran came close to direct military clashes in June. Donald Trump said he canceled strikes against Iranian targets in the last minute after the Islamic Republic shot down an American drone.
London and Berlin on Tuesday called for a "collective response" from the international community after the attacks last weekend.
While visiting Cairo, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian called for "de-escalation". A similar call was launched by Beijing. Russia for its part called on Monday the international community to "not draw hasty conclusions" after this attack.
These attacks resulted in a 50 percent drop in Saudi oil production, or 5.7 million barrels a day, or about 6 percent of the world's oil supply. After yesterday's record high, oil prices fell on Tuesday, while Riyadh ensured that production would be restored by the end of September.
With AFP and Reuters