Iran’s foreign minister has warned any attack on his country in response to its alleged role in a drone and missile strike on Saudi oil facilities would result in “all-out war”, further heightening tensions across the Persian Gulf.
Mohammad Javad Zarif’s comments are the starkest warning yet by Iran after a summer of oil tanker seizures and attacks following the collapse of Iran’s nuclear deal with world powers, over a year after Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew the US from the accord, the Guardian UK reported.
Zarif’s comments appeared to be in response to a reference by the US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, to the Saudi oil attack as an “act of war” while travelling to Saudi Arabia a day earlier.
Asked by CNN what would be the consequence of a US or Saudi strike, Zarif said: “All-out war. … We won’t blink to defend our territory.”
In the report by the Guardian UK, Pompeo tweeted early on Thursday after his meeting with the kingdom’s de facto ruler and crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, about Saturday’s drone and cruise missile attack on a crucial oil processing facility and oil field on Saturday. Yemen’s Iranian-backed Houthi rebels have claimed responsibility for the attack, but the US has said Iran was behind it.
Pompeo called the attacks “unprecedented.”.
“The U.S. stands with #SaudiArabia and supports its right to defend itself,” Pompeo said. “The Iranian regime’s threatening behavior will not be tolerated.”
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President Donald Trump has been noncommittal on whether he would order US military retaliation. He separately said on Wednesday he was moving towards increasing financial sanctions on Tehran over the attack, without elaborating. Iran is already subject to a crushing American sanctions program targeting its crucial oil industry.
Pompeo left Jiddah on Thursday and headed to the UAE to meet with Abu Dhabi’s powerful crown prince, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan. The UAE is a close ally of Saudi Arabia and joined the kingdom in its war in Yemen against the Houthis.
The UAE announced on Thursday it had joined a US-led coalition to protect waterways across the region after the Saudi oil attack.
The state-run WAM news agency quoted Salem al-Zaabi, of the Emirati foreign ministry, as saying the UAE had joined the coalition to “ensure global energy security and the continued flow of energy supplies to the global economy”.
Saudi Arabia joined the coalition on Wednesday. Australia, Bahrain and the UK also are taking part.
Pompeo tweeted his appreciation for the UAE and Saudi Arabia joining the coalition.
“Recent events underscore the importance of protecting global commerce and freedom of navigation,” he wrote.
The US formed the coalition after attacks on oil tankers that American officials blamed on Iran, as well as Iran’s seizure of tankers in the region. Iran denies being behind the tanker explosions, though the attacks came after Tehran threatened to stop oil exports from the Persian Gulf.