Iran’s foreign minister warned that any US or Saudi strike on his country in response to the attacks on the kingdom’s critical oil facilities would lead to “all-out war.”
In an interview with CNN, Javad Zarif reiterated that Iran wasn’t involved in the weekend attacks and hoped to avoid a conflict. He said Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi rebels, who have been fighting a Saudi-led coalition for four years and claimed responsibility, had the capability to carry out such a sophisticated operation.
“I cannot have any confidence that they did it because we just heard their statement,” Zarif said. “I know that we didn’t do it. I know that the Houthis made a statement that they did it.”
Saudi and U.S. officials have said that the drones and missiles used were made by Iran, had never before been deployed by Iranian proxy groups, and came from a northerly direction, ruling out Yemen as a launch site. But they stopped short of saying the strikes were launched directly from or by the Islamic Republic, claims that could have propelled a drift toward war. The attacks caused an unprecedented surge in oil prices.
Asked what the consequence of a US or Saudi military strike on Iran would be, Zarif said: “All-out war,” CNN reported.
“I make a very serious statement about defending our country,” he said. “I am making a very serious statement that we don’t want to engage in a military confrontation.”
The attacks have damped speculation that President Donald Trump and his Iranian counterpart, Hassan Rouhani, could meet at the United Nations General Assembly in New York next week. The US reimposed sanctions on Iran after exiting the 2015 nuclear deal, kicking off a year of increasingly fraught relations.
The disputed weekend attacks sent tensions in the Gulf soaring to new heights.
US secretary of state Mike Pompeo is in the United Arab Emirates after holding talks in the Saudi Arabian city of Jeddah on Wednesday as the allies plot their next move.
Trump, who as a candidate campaigned to end America’s foreign wars, had initially declared the US “locked and loaded” for a response. But Trump said Wednesday that he was tightening sanctions on Iran, leading to speculation that he’s working to avoid another Middle East conflict.