U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper said on Monday that the U.S. military is preparing to respond to the Iranian-backed attack attacks against two Saudi Aramco oil facilities on Saturday.
“The United States military, with our interagency team, is working with our partners to address this unprecedented attack and defend the international rules-based order that is being undermined by Iran,” he tweeted.
The attack was claimed by Yemen’s Houthi rebels, but U.S. officials have accused Iran of being behind it. Tehran has been backing the Houthis in Yemen’s civil war, while Saudi Arabia has bolstered Yemen’s government. The Houthis are an Iranian proxy.
When asked if Iran was behind the attack, U.S. President Donald Trump responded, “It’s looking that way,” adding that, while he doesn’t want conflict, the United States is “more prepared” were that case to arise.
Trump announced that U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has been dispatched to Saudi Arabia amid the ongoing situation.
U.S. intelligence showed that the attack was launched from Iran, reported NBC News on Monday, citing three people familiar with the intelligence.
The president also said that “these sanctions are not going to be taken off” Iran, amid reports that Trump could meet with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani next week at the United Nations General Assembly without preconditions and could even relax some sanctions in exchange for negotiations.
However, the Iran said on Monday that the meeting won’t happen.
Lawmakers on Capitol Hill expressed mixed reactions to possible U.S. military action against Iran.
“My hope is that the president will consult with his generals, his diplomats, his advisers, will look hard at the intelligence,” said Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) in an interview on Fox News.
“Iran is one of the most dangerous state sponsors of terrorism,” he continued. “This may well be the thing that calls for military action against Iran if that’s what the intelligence supports.”
Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) tweeted, “There is no imminent threat and the U.S. military is not authorized to retaliate on behalf of another country.”
“Direct engagement by US military in response to Iran’s attacks on Saudi oil infrastructure would be a grave mistake. The US has continued arms sales so Saudi Arabia can defend itself. If SA responds against Iran attacks, the US should be ready to support in a non-kinetic role,” tweeted Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah).
“It is now time for the U.S. to put on the table an attack on Iranian oil refineries if they continue their provocations or increase nuclear enrichment. Iran will not stop their misbehavior until the consequences become more real, like attacking their refineries, which will break the regime’s back,” tweeted Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.).