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US senator blames Biden's Iran policy for attacks on Saudi oil facilities

Republican Bill Hagerty says 'Biden's desire to give Tehran sanctions relief' is emboldening Iran to attack US allies
Bill Hagerty currently sits on the Foreign Relations Committee.
Senator Bill Hagerty currently sits on the Foreign Relations Committee (AFP)
By in
Washington

A prominent Republican senator has criticised President Joe Biden's "relaxed" policy on Iran, which he says prompted an attack on oil facilities in eastern Saudi Arabia, including a drone attack on one of the world's largest oil shipping ports.

Bill Hagerty, a Republican senator who sits on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said Biden's apparent lax policy towards Tehran was to blame for the attack.

"Yet another missile strike against Saudi Arabia today with all the hallmarks of an Iranian-backed attack," he said in a tweet on Sunday, referring to a video reportedly of a ballistic missile strike near Khobar, in eastern Saudi Arabia.

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"It seems [President] Biden's desire to give Tehran sanctions relief is emboldening the mullahs to escalate their aggression against us and our allies."

Saudi Arabia revealed that it intercepted a drone targeting a petroleum storage yard at the Ras Tanura Port and an attempted missile strike on Saudi Aramco facilities on Sunday.

Shrapnel from a ballistic missile also fell near an Aramco residential compound in the eastern city of Dhahran.

An energy ministry spokesman said in a statement on state news agency SPA that neither attack resulted in any injury or loss of life or damage to property.

Yemen's Houthi rebels claimed responsibility on Twitter for the attack on Ras Tanura, one of the world's biggest oil ports, and military targets in the eastern area of Dammam.

The US embassy in Saudi Arabia said on Monday that its "commitment to defend the Kingdom and its security is firm" following the attacks.

"The heinous Houthi assaults on civilians and vital infrastructure demonstrate lack of respect for human life and disregard for peace efforts," the embassy said in an Arabic-language Twitter post.

Republicans reject Biden's Iran rapprochement

Sunday's attack is the latest in a series of cross-border missile and drone strikes the group has done on the kingdom amid the grinding war in Yemen.

Last week, the Houthis claimed an attack on a Saudi oil facility in the port city of Jeddah, which serves as a temporary storage facility for gasoline, diesel and other petrochemicals before distribution, and sits just southeast of the city's King Abdulaziz International Airport.

The Biden administration last month announced it was ending support for the Saudi-led coalition's offensive operations in Yemen, but said it remained committed to helping the country defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Biden also removed the rebel group from its blacklist of foreign terrorist organisations. Riyadh sees the Houthis as a proxy for Iran, while the rebels deny receiving material support from the Islamic Republic.

Meanwhile, a coalition of Republican lawmakers including Hagerty has criticised Biden's approach to Tehran as the president has vowed to return to the 2015 Iran nuclear deal that his predecessor Donald Trump left.

Last week, the senator sent a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken calling on the administration to issue a new arms embargo on Iran, after a similar one imposed by the United Nations expired last October.

More than 40 Republican lawmakers also introduced a bill last week that opposes lifting sanctions on Iran. The effort is unlikely to make it out of either legislature, however, with a Democratic majority in both houses.