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US looking for proof of Iranian responsibility for Saudi attacks, while sending mixed signals

US looking for proof of Iranian responsibility for Saudi attacks, while sending mixed signals

2019/09/18 | 13:20

(Hatha al-Youm | Iraq News)- WASHINGTON DC (Kurdistan 24) – US military officials and intelligence analysts are scrutinizing satellite imagery, as well as wreckage and debris from the weapons used to attack Saudi oil installations on Saturday. They hope to establish conclusive proof of Iran’s responsibility.

At least one cruise missile was found largely undamaged. The Saudis were able to recover “fully intact circuit boards,” CNN reported on Tuesday. Both the Saudis and the US expect they will be able to show that the weapons were launched from Iran, the network said.

CBS News went even further, reporting that the US had already “identified the exact locations in Iran” from which the drones and cruise missiles were fired at the Saudi oil facilities.

Even before Tuesday’s reports emerged, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Secretary of Defense Mark Esper had already blamed Iran for the attacks.

The White House, however, has been more reluctant to attribute responsibility directly to Iran. On Monday, Trump, in a joint press conference with Bahrain’s Crown Prince, who was in Washington on a previously scheduled visit, was asked about Iran’s role.

“It’s looking that way,” Trump said. “As soon as we find out definitively, we’ll let you know.”

White House Deputy Press Secretary Hogan Gidley, repeated much the same on Tuesday. “The President is dealing with all of our partners and allies in the region, and we want to make sure the evidence clearly points to a culprit here,” she said.

Gen. Joseph Dunford, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters on Tuesday that the US had sent forensic specialists to assist Saudi Arabia in the investigation. “The most likely threat is either Iran or Iranian-backed proxies,” he said, adding “This looked like a very complex, precise attack, not consistent with previous” attacks from the Houthis in Yemen.

Paul Davis, a former Pentagon analyst and currently instructor at The World Politics Institute, told Kurdistan 24, “It’s Iran. There’s no doubt about it,” as he stressed the sophistication of the attacks. “There are simply no other candidates, besides Iran.”

Davis offered several possible explanations for Trump’s vagueness. “Maybe, he’s trying to gain time to consider his options?” Or “maybe, the Saudis have got cold feet, now that they see how vulnerable they are?,” Davis suggested.

“Or Trump may have come to see that this is not so easy,” he continued. In June, he noted, Trump cancelled a planned attack on Iran, minutes before it was set to launch.

READ MORE: Trump ends day of conflicting signals by calling off strike on Iran

Indeed, possibly, Trump’s reversal then emboldened the Iranians, causing them to believe they could get away with much more—particularly, if they did not attack a US target—and so they hit the Saudi oil facilities.

Rep. Michael McCaul, of Texas, the lead Republican on the House Foreign Relations Committee, issued a statement warning of just that. If there is no “impactful consequence” to Iran’s “damaging assault,” he said, it “will only embolden future acts like this, or worse.”

For now, the focus seems to be on the investigation. French President Emmanuel Macron spoke with the Saudi Crown Prince on Tuesday and agreed to send French experts to assist in the inquiry.

Once the investigation is concluded, the next step could be to present the case to the UN Security Council. A senior Trump administration official told the Associated Press that “the US sees a role” for the Security Council in this matter.

Yet Moscow is now aligned with Tehran, and Davis warned that any attempt to get the Security Council to take meaningful action against Iran might well face a Russian, or even Chinese, veto, irrespective of the strength of the case.

Editing by Nadia Riva 







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