• Keys: What does the US have left to sanction in Iran?
  • Evidence: Saudi Arabia presents the remains of the drones and missiles used in the attacks and assures that "they were undoubtedly sponsored by Iran"

Five days after the attack on facilities of Saudi oil company Aramco, the United States and Saudi Arabia continue to ponder the scope of the response to sabotage they directly attribute to Iran. A key partner in assembling the replica is the United Arab Emirates, the federation that has supervised the change of helm in Saudi Arabia in recent years and the declared next target of the Shiite rebel group of the Houthis, the Yemeni movement considered satellite of Tehran.

"We tell the Emirati regime that a single operation of ours would cost him dearly," threatened Yahia Saria, a military spokesman for the Houthis , the group that the Arab coalition led by Riyadh and Abu Dhabi bombed since March 2015. The movement claimed the past Saturday drone attacks and cruise missiles against two refineries of the giant Aramco. However, both Saudi Arabia and the US claim that the evidence gathered so far suggests that sabotage came from the north, "undoubtedly from Iran."

Tehran denies any involvement in the attacks while the Houthis insist on their authorship . "For the first time we announced that we have a dozen targets within our reach in the United Arab Emirates. Some are located in Abu Dhabi and can be beaten at any time," the uniformed man said after making a new display of force and ensuring that the The group, which controls vast areas of Yemen, has new drones "powered by normal and jet engines" that can reach remote areas of Saudi Arabia.

The Houthi challenge comes during the visit of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to the Persian Gulf . Late on Wednesday he met with Saudi Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman. "The US supports Saudi Arabia and its right to self-defense. The threatening conduct of the Iranian regime will not be tolerated," Pompeo said after the meeting. This Thursday he landed in Abu Dhabi to discuss "the unprecedented attack" with Mohamed bin Zayed al Nahyan, heir to the emirate of Abu Dhabi and the man who is credited with having designed the new Saudi strategy.

"We are still dedicating our efforts to forming a coalition in an act of diplomacy while the Iranian Foreign Minister is threatening a total war," Pompeo has censored, committed - he has reiterated - in "achieving peace." The head of US diplomacy has explained that the new sanctions announced against the Islamic Republic will try to "avoid Iran's continued support for terrorism through groups like Hezbollah."

Despite the insistence with which Americans and Saudis have pointed the accusing finger towards the Republic of the Ayatollahs and denounced the "act of war," caution has dominated their response. On Wednesday, US President Donald Trump announced an increase in sanctions against Iran - which he will detail within 48 hours - but he was restrained to escalate the response to an open military conflict. "There are many options. There is the definitive option and there are many smaller options than that. We will see it," he told reporters from Los Angeles.

"At the moment, there is little appetite in Washington and Riyadh for an escalation but they need to respond," acknowledges EL MUNDO.es David Roberts, a professor at the school of safety studies at King's College London. "Some information indicates that Saudi planes attacked Iranian allies in Syria while Trump has called for tougher sanctions. If they can add to that a more significant diplomatic conviction against Iran, that could satisfy their need for reaction," the expert predicts.

Tehran has warned this Wednesday of the repercussions of a US or Iranian military attack. "I am making a very serious statement that we do not want war. We do not want to participate in a military confrontation but we will not blink to defend our territory," Iranian Foreign Minister Mohamed Javad Zarif said in an interview with CNN. Asked about the scenario that would provoke an attack, it has been clear: "a total war" .

Prudence of the international community

Aware of the risks of a direct confrontation between Sunnis and Shiites, the international community has maintained prudence. Countries like France or China have called for an independent investigation to resolve the authorship of an attack that has shown the vulnerability of the Saudis and threatened the global oil supply. Seven members of the Gallic army - explosives specialists, defense systems and missile trajectories - have joined the UN experts to try to shed light on the ground at the rush.

The attack has reactivated the efforts so far ineffective of the US to forge a global coalition to ensure maritime security in the Persian Gulf. The alliance began to collapse last May after a series of sabotage of tankers in the vicinity of the strategic Strait of Hormuz. One of the objectives of the measure is to offer escort to commercial ships that cross the region, a vital route for international crude oil supply.

Hours after the threats spilled by the Houthis, Emirates - the seventh country in the world in number of oil reserves and with a production of 2.6 million barrels of oil a day - has announced precisely its adherence to the coalition with the purpose of "guaranteeing the security of energy at a global level and maintaining the flow of supply," explained the country's authorities.

Saudi Arabia joined the mechanism on Wednesday. The coalition, which started in trouble in late August, is also formed by Australia, Bahrain and the United Kingdom. The member countries have provided troops, airplanes and ships to escort the commercial vessels that cross the area. Iraq, whose government tries to maintain an impossible neutrality, has announced Thursday that it refuses to join the coalition.

The uncertainties projected by the situation since Saturday have raised the alarm in other nations of the Persian Gulf . The oil sector of neighboring Kuwait is in a state of maximum alert and the army has carried out training exercises in recent days. Authorities are still investigating reports that a drone or missile flew over its airspace early Saturday, shortly before attacks on Aramco facilities.

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