US hints at airstrikes on Iran, seeks clarity on Saudi raids

Nearly three months after the US air force was “cocked and loaded” to attack Iranian targets over the downing of its drone in the Strait of Hormuz, it is “locked and loaded” again to retaliate against drone attacks allegedly carried out by Iran on Saudi oil installations early on Saturday.

Iran denied the allegation, saying Washington seems to have switched its policy to ‘maximum lies’ after its ‘maximum pressure’ tactic failed.

Yemen’s Houthi rebels, whose positions are being regularly bombed by the Saudi-led Coalition in a protracted war, have already claimed sending 10 drones to target two Saudi oil installations on Saturday. If the US still blames the pre-dawn raids on Iran, it is only to prepare the ground for airstrikes, a foreign ministry spokesman said in Tehran.

Trump tweeted on Monday that the US has reason to believe it knows the culprit. Its forces are “locked and loaded”, awaiting the kingdom’s statement on who carried out the attacks.

In another tweet, Trump authorised the release of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, if needed, to prevent any supply-related issues.

The attacks on Saudi oil installations have led to cut in oil production in the kingdom by 50%. The fall in output will continue for a few weeks.

Oil prices rose by more than 10% when markets reopened on Monday. US crude oil rose by $5.61 to $60.46 per barrel while Brent crude oil surged by $7.84 to $68.06 per barrel.

The kingdom’s oil giant Saudi Aramco is still assessing the damage caused by the attacks.

Even as the US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, squarely blamed Iran for the attacks on the Saudi oil plants, Britain’s Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab was guarded in his remarks.

While calling the drone raids a violation of international law, Raab did not say who was behind the attacks since the picture was not clear.