US ‘locked and loaded’ after blaming Iran for Saudi oil attack

Senior US officials have suggested that Iran was behind the Saudi oil attacks, saying satellite images show they were not carried out from Yemen as Houthi rebels claimed. Oil prices have surged in the wake of the attack.

The United States on Sunday accused Iran of attacking Saudi oil refineries , despite Houthi rebels claiming they had launched the attack from Yemen.

US President Donald Trump said “there is reason to believe that we know the culprit,” adding that Washington is “locked and loaded” to respond, pending further information from Saudi Arabia.

Satellite images released by the US and examined by the Associated Press show around 17 “points of impact” at an oil processing facility in Abqaiq. Another two points of impact were found at Saudi’s Khurais facility.

Senior US officials told reporters that damage indicates the attack could have been launched from Iraq or Iran and not from Saudi’s southern neighbor Yemen.

One official, speaking on condition of anonymity, suggested there were indications that cruise missiles were used, according Reuters news agency. Houthi rebels claimed to have used drones.

So far, neither Saudi Arabia nor state oil giant Saudi Aramco have said how much damage was done to the site, but global oil prices shot up after the country cut its oil production by more than half.

Oil prices surge

Oil prices shot up by more than 10% when markets reopened on Monday. US crude oil rose by $5.61 (€5.07) to hit $60.46 (€54.60) per barrel, while Brent crude oil surged to $7.84 to $68.06 per barrel.

The strike forced Saudi Arabia to substantially curb oil output. As a result,  global oil supply dipped by more than 5%. Analysts said the long-term impact on oil prices will depend on how long production is disrupted.

Trump said he approved the release of oil from US reserves. Other countries, including Russia and South Korea, said they are considering taking similar measures to shore up global oil supplies.

“Based on the attack on Saudi Arabia, which may have an impact on oil prices, I have authorized the release of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, if needed, in a to-be-determined amount,” Trump tweeted.

Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak said he would be discussing developments with his Saudi counterpart.

Iran dismisses ‘maximum lies’

The attacks have inflamed tensions in the Persian Gulf, with both Iran and Iraq denying involvement.

“These allegations are condemned as unacceptable and entirely baseless,” Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said in comments circulated by state TV on Monday.

Baghdad also dismissed the possibility that attacks were staged from Iraqi soil.

“The Iraqi government denies media reports that Iraqi territories were used to launch attacks on Saudi oil installations,” the government said in a tweet. “The Iraqi government discharges its constitutional duty to safeguard Iraq’s security and does not permit the use of Iraqi territories to attack neighboring countries.”A Saudi-led coalition has fought a bloody war against Shiite Houthi rebels in Yemen for more than four years. The war has killed more than 10,000 people and left millions more on the brink of death from starvation and easily treatable diseases. In response, the Houthis have carried out several cross-border missile and drone attacks.