Wed, 16 Oct 2019

Trump: Wed Certainly Like to Avoid War With Iran

Voice of America
17 Sep 2019, 08:05 GMT+10

WHITE HOUSE - U.S. President Donald Trump says it looks like Iran is responsible for attacks on oil facilities in Saudi Arabia.

"We'll let you know definitively. ... That's being checked out right now," the president told reporters in the Oval Office on Monday afternoon during a meeting with the crown prince of Bahrain, Salman bin Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa.

Trump said he does not want war with Iran.

"The United States is more prepared" for a conflict than any country in history, he added. "With all that being said, we'd certainly like to avoid it."

Diplomacy is never exhausted, said Trump who was also asked by reporters if he had promised the Saudis that the United States will protect them.

"No, I haven't promised the Saudis that," responded Trump. "We have to sit down with the Saudis and work something out."

The president announced that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and other U.S. officials will travel to Saudi Arabia.

Earlier in the day Trump met with U.S. military leaders.

After the meeting, Defense Secretary Mark Esper said: "The United States military, with our interagency team, is working with our partners to address this unprecedented attack and defend the international rules-based order that is being undermined by Iran."

A Saudi military spokesman said an initial investigation suggested that "Iranian weapons" were used in the attack.

Iranian-backed Houthi insurgents in Yemen claimed responsibility for the attack that cut the Saudis' daily oil production by 5.7 million barrels, but Pompeo, without offering any evidence, blamed the Iranians, dismissing the possibility that the attack came from Yemen.

Iraqi news media reported the attack was launched from southern Iraq, where Iranian-backed militias wield some power, although the Iraqi government rejected the possibility that its territory was used as a launchpad.

Trump on Sunday evening signaled the U.S. willingness, pending more evidence on who carried out the middle-of-the-night attack early Saturday, for a retaliatory strike, saying on Twitter that American forces are 'locked and loaded' to respond.

Trump added he is waiting to hear from the Saudis as to who they believe is behind the attack and "under what terms we would proceed."

Iran has called the charges it is behind the attack, "maximum lies."

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee's chairman, Republican Jim Risch, in a statement is warning Tehran that it "should not underestimate the United States' resolve. Any attack against U.S. forces deployed abroad must be met with an overwhelming response - no targets are off the table."

A Democratic Party member of the committee, Chris Coons says if Trump "wants to take any military action in response to the attacks, he needs to brief Congress on the relevant intelligence and make the case to Congress and the American people that a military response is necessary and justified. "

Coons, in a statement, said military force should be the last resort.

"If intelligence proves Iranian responsibility for these recent attacks on Saudi Arabia, we should weigh our options carefully and consult with our regional and European allies and partners, which will only strengthen our response," said Coons.

Ali Shihabi, the founder of the Arabia Foundation, told VOA that the likely targets in Iran for the United States or Saudi Arabia "would be refineries and critical oil facilities."

Shihabi says, despite Trump's tweet, it is not about Riyadh "deciding," that any action the Saudis take "in retaliation across the Gulf will expose U.S. troops and facilities to Iranian attack, so it has to coordinate with the U.S."

Middlebury Institute of International Studies scholar Jeffrey Lewis contended that Trump leaving the decision to the Saudis "is pathetic."

Lewis, the founding publisher of the Arms Control Wonk blog, told VOA the U.S. president is "clearly leaving himself an out" - so he can declare that he "wanted to retaliate, but it was the Saudis who said no."

Lewis added that Trump "likes to talk tough and I can't rule out something symbolic, but I don't think he has the stomach to start a war."

Oil was trading 14% higher on Monday after benchmark futures saw their largest-ever one day rise in dollar-terms.

Trump also announced on Sunday that he was authorizing the release of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, if needed, "in a to-be-determined amount" sufficient to keep the markets well-supplied.

The attack, which some analysts suspect might have been a precision attack with cruise missiles from Iran or Iraqi territory, on Saudi Arabia's Abqaiq plant and the Khurais oil fields before dawn Saturday, caused massive fires.

Saudi officials are scrambling to restore operations - which could takes weeks or months -- and say they would tap into the country's reserves to keep deliveries coming.

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