President Trump said Monday that Iran appeared to have been responsible for the weekend attack on Saudi Arabian oil facilities. But he also said he would "like to avoid" a military conflict with Tehran, emphasized his interest in diplomacy and played down the attack's jolt to the global oil market. Asked at the White House whether Iran was behind the strikes on Saturday that crippled much of Saudi Arabia's oil output, Mr. Trump said, "It's looking that way."
U.S. intelligence indicates Iran was the staging ground for a debilitating attack on Saudi Arabia's oil industry, people familiar with the matter said, as Washington and the kingdom weighed how to respond and oil prices soared. Monday's assessment, which the U.S. hasn't shared publicly, came as President Trump said he hoped to avoid a war with Iran and as Saudi Arabia asked United Nations experts to help determine who was responsible for the airstrikes.
Iran will never hold one-on-one talks with the United States but could engage in multilateral discussions if it returns to the 2015 deal on Iran's nuclear program, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Tuesday, according to state television. U.S. President Donald Trump has said he could meet Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, possibly at the U.N. General Assembly in New York later this month.
UANI IN THE NEWS
There is a terrorist attack in the Persian Gulf. The Saudi oil installations are set ablaze. The Islamic Republic of Iran issues its ritualistic denials. The commentariat insists that the entire issue is murky and responsibility cannot be assigned with any measure of certainty. As the evidence comes in inevitably implicating Iran, they will conveniently blame the Trump administration for ratcheting up tensions by its abrogation of the Iran nuclear deal. In their telling, Iran's truculence is always a function of the hard-line policies drawn by the United States.
SANCTIONS, BUSINESS RISKS, & OTHER ECONOMIC NEWS
Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) says it has seized a ship in the Persian Gulf, accusing it of smuggling diesel fuel to the United Arab Emirates (U.A.E.). An IRGC commander said on September 16 that the vessel was carrying 250,000 liters of fuel when it was detained near Iran's Greater Tunb island, according to official media. The ship was sailing from Bandar Lengeh toward U.A.E. waters, Brigadier General Ali Ozmayi was quoted as saying.
The assault on oil facilities in Saudi Arabia this past weekend has highlighted what analysts say is a rapidly evolving threat from Iranian-made weapons in the region, marking a potentially alarming shift toward precision strikes on critical infrastructure. U.S. officials believe that cruise missiles and drones were used in the assault and that part of the operation, which was claimed by Yemen's Houthi rebels, was launched from Iranian territory, according to a U.S. official. Tehran has denied involvement.
PROTESTS & HUMAN RIGHTS
A British-Australian Islamic studies instructor has been held in Iran for nearly a year - in the same prison as the young travel-blogging couple held for flying a drone without a permit near Tehran, officials revealed. Kylie Moore-Gilbert, who studied at Cambridge University and lectured at Melbourne University, has been held at Iran's notoriously harsh Evin Prison for almost a year and has been slapped with a 10-year sentence, the Australian government told The Independent.
Iran's judiciary on Tuesday confirmed the detention of three Australian citizens that had been announced last week by the Australian government, according to Iran's semi-official Fars news agency. "Two of them had taken pictures in military areas and the third (was detained) for spying for a third country," Fars quoted judiciary spokesman Gholamhossein Esmaili as saying. "The court will decide whether this person (detained for spying) is guilty or not."
U.S.-IRAN RELATIONS & NEGOTIATIONS
The United States and Iran traded barbs over Tehran's nuclear activities as the International Atomic Energy Agency's general conference got underway in Vienna. Reading a note from U.S. President Donald Trump, Energy Secretary Rick Perry said Monday that Washington "will continue to apply maximum pressure both diplomatically and economically to deny Iran any pathway to a nuclear weapon." The U.S. last year pulled out unilaterally from the 2015 deal with Iran that promised it economic incentives in exchange for curbs on its atomic activities, and has instituted new sanctions that have been hurting the Iranian economy.
President Trump has said Iran is the greatest threat in the Middle East, a would-be nuclear power that he has brought low through the stiffest sanctions ever applied to a single nation. He has warned that the United States is "locked and loaded" to punish Iran if it is found to be responsible for the attack on Saudi oil facilities over the weekend.
Members of the U.S. Congress blasted Iran after the attack on Saudi Arabian oil facilities, but expressed wariness about U.S. military action, especially before they have a clearer picture of who was behind it. President Donald Trump said the United States was "locked and loaded" to hit back after Saturday's attack, which knocked out more than half of Saudi Arabia's oil production and damaged the world's biggest crude processing plant. Iran denied U.S. accusations it was to blame and said it was ready for "full-fledged war."
Analysts warn that Saturday's drone attack on two Saudi oil facilities, which appear to have shattered the prospect of a rapprochement between Tehran and Washington, could push the price of a barrel of oil as high as $100. The drone strike came as it emerged that U.S. President Donald Trump had been thinking of easing sanctions on Iran as a way of encouraging Iran's leaders to the negotiating table to discuss a deal aimed at curbing renewed Iranian nuclear enrichment.
Two days after the devastating attacks on Saudi Arabia's oil establishments that halved the country's oil output, a Trump Administration official has told ABC News it was Iran that launched the attack using "a dozen cruise missiles and over 20 drones from its territory." ABC has characterized the accusation as an "extraordinary charge," although other sources have also speculated about the attack having originated from somewhere in Iraq or Iran.
We will see what the U.S. intelligence community can find and share with the eyes of the world, but for now it seems really unlikely that the Houthis pulled off an attack that shut down half of Saudi Arabia's oil production all by themselves. Since 2009, Iran has supplied the Houthis with intelligence, arms shipments like rockets, explosives, mines, and training to use all of those weapons. Earlier this year, the United Nations found that Iran was secretly shipping fuel to Yemen to be sold to generate cash to finance the Houthi war effort.
On September 10, US President Donald Trump shocked the world by sacking his national security adviser John Bolton with a tweet. Bolton was the key architect of Trump's "maximum pressure" strategy against Iran. He was seen by both the US and Iran as a hawkish player and was repeatedly accused of jeopardizing Washington's chances of reaching a new deal with Iran and raising the prospects of war between the two countries.
The confrontation between the US and Iran risks spinning out of control. If the weekend attacks on Saudi Arabian oil facilities were launched by Iranian proxies, they will mark a reckless escalation both of Tehran's resistance to US pressure and of its struggle for supremacy with its biggest regional rival.
RUSSIA, SYRIA, ISRAEL, HEZBOLLAH, LEBANON & IRAN
Syrian opposition activists say unknown aircraft have attacked posts of Iranian-backed fighters in an eastern town near the Iraqi border. The activists said the airstrike took place early Tuesday in Boukamal, in the eastern province of Deir el-Zour. There was no immediate word on casualties. Last week in Syria, unknown warplanes targeted an arms depot and posts of Iranian-backed militias in Boukamal, killing at least 18 fighters.
The leaders of Turkey, Russia and Iran meeting in Ankara on Monday agreed to try to ease tensions in northwest Syria's Idlib region, but disagreements between the countries appeared to linger, especially over the threat from Islamic State. The summit of the three countries - all of whom have allies fighting in Syria's ruinous eight-year-old war - aimed to find a lasting truce in Syria. Recent attacks by Syrian government forces risk deepening regional turmoil and pushing a new wave of migrants towards Turkey.
The Special Tribunal for Lebanon unveiled charges on Monday that widen the investigation into assassination attempts and killings believed to be linked to the 2005 murder of prime minister Rafiq Hariri. The charges come six years after the last indictment was issued and as the court process into Mr Hariri's murder enters the final stages.
GULF STATES, YEMEN, & IRAN
Saudi Arabia said on Monday that the attack on its oil facilities was carried out with Iranian weapons, according to a preliminary investigation, but stopped short of directly blaming regional foe Iran. A foreign ministry statement said Riyadh would invite international experts, including from the United Nations, to participate in investigating Saturday's assault, which cut almost half of Saudi Arabia's oil production.
Yemen's National Alliance of Political Parties has condemned in the strongest terms the attacks on two Aramco oil facilities in Saudi Arabia. "This terrorist attack is a serious escalation targeting the security of the Kingdom and the entire region and global energy supplies," it said in a statement. The Alliance, which brings together Yemen's largest parties backing the country's legitimacy, said the attack revealed the magnitude of the Iranian threat globally and the extent of the spread of its arms in the region and the terrorist nature of its proxies, including the Houthi militia.
IRAQ & IRAN
Attacks that occurred Sept. 14 against Aramco oil processing facilities in Saudi Arabia, resulting in huge fires and halting near half of the supply from the largest oil exporter in the world, could have a major effect on Iraq. Soon after the attacks, Yemen's Houthi rebels took responsibility, saying they used 10 drones in the strikes. However, Middle East Eye quoted an unnamed Iraqi intelligence official as saying the strikes were launched by Iranian drones using Iraqi territory.
OTHER FOREIGN AFFAIRS
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said on Tuesday he would meet with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani at the end of the month, as regional tensions rise in the Middle East after the weekend attacks on Saudi oil facilities, public broadcaster NHK said. It was during a meeting with members of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party that Abe repeated his intention of speaking with Rouhani on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly (UNGA) in New York, according to NHK.
Members of the Taliban political office in Doha have held discussions with Iran's foreign ministry and high-level officials in Tehran, Tasnim news agency close to the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) reported on Tuesday. Based on this report, the Taliban delegation after visiting Moscow last week travelled to Tehran. Tasnim does not mention which Iranian officials the visiting delegation has met.
The head of the Islamic Republic judiciary on Monday vowed to retaliate against Canada for selling confiscated Iranian assets, giving the proceeds to the victims of Tehran-related terrorism. Speaking to the Supreme Judiciary Council, mid-ranking cleric, Ebrahim Raeesi, said, "Should Canada expropriate Iranian assets, we would also seize the assets and properties in Iran recognized as Canadian." Meanwhile, without any elaboration, Raeesi asserted that Iran would retaliate against Canada through "international bodies."