The military coalition assembled by Saudi Arabia to intervene in Yemen’s civil war said on Monday that the weekend attack on Saudi oil facilities was conducted with Iranian weapons, and those weapons were not launched from Yemen, despite claims to the contrary by the Iran-backed Houthi insurgency.
“The preliminary results show that the weapons are Iranian and we are currently working to determine the location,” Col. Turki al-Malki, a spokesman for the coalition, said at a press conference in Riyadh.
“The terrorist attack did not originate from Yemen as the Houthi militia claimed,” he added, promising to specify where the drones that hit the Saudi oil targets were launched from in a future briefing.
Malki called the attack “cowardly” and said it targeted “the global economy,” not just Saudi Arabia.
The Houthi rebels claimed responsibility for the attack and warned on Monday they will launch more strikes against Saudi Arabia’s oil infrastructure. A Houthi military spokesman warned “companies and foreigners not to be present in the factories that were hit by our strikes because we may target them again at any moment.”
The spokesman claimed Houthi forces can now strike targets anywhere in Saudi Arabia at will and promised the attacks “will expand and be more painful.”
Several Trump administration officials, notably including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Energy Secretary Rick Perry, have openly accused Iran of launching the attack:
Tehran is behind nearly 100 attacks on Saudi Arabia while Rouhani and Zarif pretend to engage in diplomacy. Amid all the calls for de-escalation, Iran has now launched an unprecedented attack on the world’s energy supply. There is no evidence the attacks came from Yemen.
— Secretary Pompeo (@SecPompeo) September 14, 2019
An unnamed senior U.S. official told ABC News on Monday that Iran perpetrated the attack, using almost a dozen cruise missiles in addition to 20 drones, all launched from its territory. The Houthis have attacked targets in Saudi Arabia before, but never with such range, precision, or force.
“It was Iran. The Houthis are claiming credit for something they did not do,” said ABC’s source.
CNN also quoted an unnamed senior U.S. official on Sunday who said satellite images showed the attack on the Saudi oil fields came from the northwest – the direction of Iran and Iraq, not Yemen. An attack from Yemen passing the targets and then turning to hit them from the northwest was described as unlikely, if not impossible. The official also noted there were signs of damage to 19 different targets but the Houthis claim to have launched only 10 drones.
The New York Times said other administration sources speaking on background Sunday said the attack involved both cruise missiles and drones. “Both, and a lot of them,” one official said.
The officials indicated more U.S. intelligence will be declassified in the coming days to buttress allegations of Iranian responsibility, possibly including forensic analyses of weapons fired at the Saudi facilities that fell short of their targets.
The NYT was able to find a few Iranian military sources who doubted the Houthis could have carried out the attack without Iranian assistance, or took the opportunity to gloat that if the relatively crude Houthi military was capable of such a strike, the U.S. and its allies should fear what Iran could do in the event of a “full-fledged” engagement.