Iran warns of crushing response to any aggression
Japan: Houthis not Iran carried out Saudi attacks
France: No proof for Iran involvement
President Hassan Rouhani said on Wednesday Iran did not want conflict in the region while Defense Minister Amir Hatami said Tehran had no involvement in the attacks on Saudi Arabia’s Aramco oil installations.
Rouhani said the United States and a Saudi-led military coalition started the war on Yemen.
“We don’t want conflict in the region... Who started the conflict? Not the Yemenis. It was Saudi Arabia, the Emirates, America, certain European countries and the Zionist regime (Israel) which started the war in this region,” Rouhani said.
Rouhani said Yemen’s Houthis attacked Saudi oil facilities at the weekend as a “warning”, after attacks on hospitals, schools and markets in Yemen by the Saudi-led coalition.
"Learn lessons from this warning and consider that there could be a war in the region," he said, in a likely address to the rulers of Saudi Arabia which has spent billions of dollars on US weapons.
Rejecting comments about Iran’s role in the operation, Hatami said the issue is very clear: There has been a conflict between two countries (Yemen and Saudi Arabia).
“If a threat is posed to Iran, there will be the same decisiveness with which we responded to the American drone’s minimal incursion [into Iranian skies],” he said, referring to the shooting down of a US spy drone that had intruded into Iranian airspace on June 20.
Saudi Arabia said it would show evidence linking Tehran to the unprecedented attack on its oil industry that Washington claims originated from Iran.
Yemen’s Houthi group has claimed responsibility for the Sept. 14 attacks on oil plants, including the world’s biggest crude processing facility that initially knocked out half of Saudi production.
The Houthis said they used drones to assault state oil company Aramco’s sites.
Energy specialists S&P Platt said around three million barrels per day of Saudi crude would remain offline for at least a month.
Saudi Arabia, which has been bogged down in an almost five-year war in Yemen, has said the weapons used in the attacks were Iranian-made.
Tehran has repeatedly denied accusations from Washington and Riyadh that it arms the Houthis.
A US official said 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.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo traveled to Saudi Arabia Tuesday to discuss possible retaliation.
US Vice President Mike Pence announced that Pompeo will "discuss our response."
"As the president said, we don't want war with anybody but the United States is prepared," Pence said in a speech in Washington.
"We're locked and loaded and we're ready to defend our interests and allies in the region, make no mistake about it," he said, echoing President Donald Trump's words on Sunday.
But Trump said on Monday he had not made commitments to protect the Saudis.
“No, I haven’t promised Saudis that. We have to sit down with the Saudis and work something out,” he said. “That was an attack on Saudi Arabia, and that wasn’t an attack on us. But we would certainly help them.”
Saudi Arabia, which has bought huge quantities of US weaponry, is considered a strategic ally in the region, second to Israel, another bitter foe of Iran.
Trump's administration is considering responses to the latest attack including a cyberattack or a physical strike on Iranian oil infrastructure or the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps, NBC News reported, citing unnamed US officials.
Republican Lindsey Graham – a vital Trump ally in Congress – struck a belligerent tone Tuesday, charging that "such a sophisticated attack could not have occurred without Iran's blessing and direct involvement."
But Iran on Wednesday threatened a crushing response to any military strike.
In a letter sent on Monday to the United States via the Swiss Embassy, which represents US interests in Iran, Tehran said it "denies and condemns claims" by US officials that "Tehran was behind the attacks."
"It was also emphasized in the letter that in case of any aggression against Iran, that action will face an immediate response from Iran and the response won't be limited to the source of the threat,” Iran said in the note.
Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif also dismissed US accusations over the attacks as a distraction from the realities in the Middle East.
“The United States should seek to look at the realities in the region, rather than simply using distractions. We feel that the US government is trying to somehow forget the realities in the region,” Zarif said.
Houthis did it
Japan’s new defense chief said on Wednesday his country has not seen any intelligence that shows Iran was involved in the attacks on Saudi Arabia’s oil facilities.
“We are not aware of any information that points to Iran,” Defense Minister Taro Kono told reporters at a briefing. “We believe the Houthis carried out the attack based on the statement claiming responsibility,” he added.
Japan has maintained cordial ties with Iran even as relations between Tehran and Washington have deteriorated.
Kono on Monday said Japan cannot participate in any military retaliation because of constitutional restraints and would instead pursue a diplomatic solution to the current crisis.
US Marine General Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Tuesday that US military experts were in Saudi Arabia working with their counterparts to “do the forensics on the attack” – gleaning evidence that could help build a convincing case for where the weapons originated.
On Wednesday, French President Emmanuel Macron’s office announced experts from his nation would be traveling to Saudi Arabia to help the kingdom shed light “on the origin and methods” of the attacks. France has been trying to find a diplomatic solution to the tensions between Iran and the US, so any conclusion they draw could be used to show what a third-party assessed happened.
Macron telephoned Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on Tuesday to discuss the attacks.
In a sign that US allies remain unconvinced, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said he was unsure if anyone had any evidence to say whether drones “came from one place or another.”
“Up to now France doesn’t have proof permitting it to say that these drones came from such and such a place, and I don’t know if anyone has proof,” Le Drian told reporters during a visit to Cairo on Tuesday.
“We need a strategy of de-escalation for the area, and any move that goes against this de-escalation would be a bad move for the situation in the region,” he said.
A French Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said on Wednesday Paris will not rush into commenting on who was behind the attacks.
Asked in an online briefing whether Paris considered the Saudi and US analysis that Iran was behind the attack to be credible, the spokeswoman responded, “We share the desire to carefully establish the facts before making any reaction.”
Reuters, AFP, AP and Press TV contributed to this story.