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Saudi Arabia and Iran posture over 'acts of war' and 'crushing' responses

Britain supports Saudi claims that oilfield attack did not come from the Iranian-backed Houthi movement
Saudi Arabia believes the drone and cruise missiles were built by Iran but it is waiting to confirm if the attack came from Iranian territory (Reuters)

The fallout from an attack last week on Saudi oil fields has involved an exchange of semi-veiled threats between the country and Iran, which Saudi Arabia blames for the attacks. 

Saudi Arabia said the attacks would be considered an "act of war" if an investigation proves Iran was behind them, while Iran has promised a "crushing reaction" to any aggression on its borders. 

Speaking to CNN, Saudi Arabia's Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel al-Jubeir said that Riyadh was waiting to see the results of its investigation. 

"We hold Iran responsible because the missiles and the drones that were fired at Saudi Arabia... were Iranian-built and Iranian-delivered," Jubeir told CNN late Saturday. 

"But to launch an attack from your territory, if that is the case, puts us in a different category... this would be considered an act of war."

Last weekend's attack on the Abqaiq and Khurais facilities was the biggest assault on Saudi oil facilities in its history. 

The attack led to Saudi having to half its oil production, causing oil markets to panic. Jubeir told CNN that it had invited international investigators to join its investigation.  

Attack on the Saudi Aramco oilfields led to Saudi Arabia halving its oil production (Reuters)
Attack on the Saudi Aramco oilfields led to Saudi Arabia halving its oil production (Reuters)

Washington has blamed Iran, which has denied any involvement, while Riyadh rejected claims that the attack was perpetrated by Houthi rebels in Yemen. 

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, however, said on Sunday that America's aim was to avoid war with Iran. He added that the decision to deploy additional US troops in the Gulf region were for "deterrence and defence."

The British foreign secretary, Dominic Raab, on Sunday described it as "implausible" that the Saudi oilfield attacks were perpetrated by the Houthi movement. 

"I find it, from the information I have seen, I find it entirely implausible and lacking in credibility to suggest that those attacks came from Houthi rebels," Raab told the BBC, but he declined to say to whom Britain attributed the attacks.

Iraq also distanced itself from the attack and said that it did not originate from its territory.

An Iraqi intelligence official, however, told Middle East Eye last week that the drone strike was launched from bases of Hashd al-Shaabi (Popular Mobilization Forces) in southern Iraq. 

Tehran vows to defend marine borders

The head of Iran's navy, Rear Admiral Hossein Khanzadi, said his forces were ready to defend the country's maritime borders.

"In case of any miscalculation and aggression by the enemy, [the navy], along with other armed forces of the country, will give the most crushing reaction in the shortest time possible," Khanzadi told the semi-official Mehr news agency.

"Today, the Islamic Republic of Iran's defence power is at its highest possible level and forces of the army and [Revolutionary Guards] are ready to defend marine borders of the country."

Saudi Arabia said it would be forming a united front at the United Nations General Assembly in New York next week against Iran. 

"Appeasement with Iran does not work. For example, trying to set up a parallel financial payment system is appeasement. Trying to give them a line of credit is appeasement. It just emboldens them," said Jubeir.

"The Iranians have to know that there will be consequences to their actions."

In the aftermath of the attack, the United States has approved sending troops to support Saudi Arabia's defences and has made plans to fast-track weapons sales to the country and its regional ally, the United Arab Emirates. 

"We will also work to accelerate the delivery of military equipment to the kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the UAE to enhance their ability to defend themselves," US Defence Secretary Mark Esper said at a news briefing on Friday.