Middle East

Iran’s Rouhani comes out swinging against the US

"Instead of creating a positive atmosphere, the American diplomats are trying to exert maximum slander on Iran with baseless and meaningless accusations," said Rouhani, according to state broadcaster IRIB. US President Donald Trump tweeted Wednesday that he has ordered new sanctions on Iran. It wasn't immediately clear whom the sanctions would apply to, but Trump has said the penalties that have crippled Tehran's economy since May 2018 would "substantially increase." US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will arrive in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, on Wednesday for meetings with officials, including Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, to discuss a response to Saturday's attack. US officials have held Iran responsible for the incident that initially roiled global energy markets, dismissing claims of responsibility by Yemen's Houthi rebels. In an official note to the US sent through the Swiss embassy Monday, Iran said any military action against the country would draw an "immediate" response from Tehran, Iran's semi-official Tasnim news reported Wednesday.

UN appearance in doubt

Rouhani may also cancel his appearance at the United Nations General Assembly later this month. Tehran has said its delegation could call off a trip to New York if the US does not issue visas for his delegation "in the next few hours," Iran's state-run ISNA news reported Wednesday afternoon. Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif was due to fly to New York on Friday morning, and Rouhani on Monday. "The Iranian delegation, which was due to travel to New York to prepare for Rouhani's visit to attend the UN General Assembly, has not been able to obtain visas until now," IRNA said. State media blamed the Trump administration for the delays. On Sunday evening, Trump tweeted that the US was "locked and loaded" to respond to the attack. On Monday, Pentagon officials were ordered to plan potential responses to the attack, administration officials and sources familiar with their thinking tell CNN. But sources said the White House is waiting for the kingdom's rulers before charting a path forward. Trump has yet to definitely state that Iran was behind the weekend attack, but others in his administration, including Pompeo, have pinned the blame on Tehran.

Evidence of attacks

The Saudi Defense Ministry displayed videos and photographs of alleged Iranian weapons it said were used in the attacks during a news conference on Wednesday.Saudi Defense Ministry spokesman Lt. Col. Turki al Malki said the attack itself did not come from the Yemeni side, but was carried out from the north to the south. They are still working to determine the exact launch point, he added. Pentagon ordered to offer options as US rules out 'knee jerk' response to Saudi attackThe attack knocked out almost half of Saudi Arabia's oil capacity and caused prices to skyrocket immediately after the incident. Saudi Arabia's Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman said the kingdom would aim to ramp up oil and gas production as fast as possible. "We will try to bring the capability within the kingdom to 11 million barrels of oil per day by the end of September, and to 12 million by the end of November," the minister said in a news conference on Tuesday night. Gas and oil production accounts for nearly half of Saudi Arabia's GDP. The Abqaiq facility, one of the main targets of Saturday's attack, is the world's largest oil-processing facility. On Wednesday, Rouhani defended Yemen's right to respond to Saudi attacks on the country and said Saturday's attack should be considered a "warning" by Yemen's Houthi rebels. More than 91,000 people have been killed in Yemen's war since 2015, according to the Armed Conflict Location and Even Data Project. The war in the country has pitted a Saudi-led coaition against Iran-backed Houthi rebels. Saudi-led coalition airstrikes account for around 67% of all reported civilian fatalities, according to the same databaseRead More – Source

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