Saudi oil attack: Rouhani dismisses US claims of Iran role as 'slander'
The Iranian president, Hassan Rouhani, has described American claims that Tehran was involved in the devastating attack on Saudi Arabian petroleum facilities as slanderous and simply part of Washington’s continuing campaign to isolate and put pressure on Iran.
In a defiant video address, Rouhani continued to insist the attack had been mounted by Houthi rebels in Yemen, and blamed Saudi Arabia for starting the four-year war there.
Iran also revealed it had sent an official note to the US through the Swiss embassy in Tehran, saying that Iran would immediately respond to any attack against itself and the scope of response would not be limited to the source of the threat. Tehran, in the note, denied any role in the attack on the Aramco oil facilities.
“While exerting psychological and economic pressure on the Iranian people [through sanctions], they want to impose maximum … pressure on Iran through slander,” Rouhani said of the US, according to the state broadcaster IRIB. “Meanwhile, no one believes these accusations.”
The Iranian president also sought to frame the Saudis as the aggressors in 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 the Houthis attacked Saudi oil facilities at the weekend as a “warning” after attacks on hospitals, schools and markets in Yemen which have been blamed on the Saudi-led coalition.
The Iranian defence minister, Brig Amir Hatami, also claimed: “In military terms, the Yemenis had carried out a similar operation around two years ago, and had attacked an airport in the United Arab Emirates and fired a missile with a range of 1,200km.”
Rouhani’s video address came ahead of a Saudi defence ministry press conference at which officials said they would provide “material evidence and Iranian weapons proving the Iranian regime’s involvement in the terrorist attack”.
Riyadh has already said preliminary results showed the attack did not come from Yemen, and dismiss as fiction repeated claims by Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen that they fired the drones.
US officials have privately claimed the strikes originated in south-western Iran, and appear to be basing these claims on unexploded ordinance found at two Saudi oil refineries hit in the strike. The officials said they involved cruise missiles and drones, indicating a higher degree of complexity and sophistication than the Houthis are capable of deploying.
Saudi Arabia has welcomed the UN and other international experts to the kingdom to inspect the attack on its two petroleum facilities, Abqaiq and Khurais. The Saudi energy minister admits half of Saudi oil production has been initially knocked out and urged foreign countries to join the investigation into the culprits. Saudi Arabia also announced that it was joining the US-led maritime security force operating in the Gulf.