The Trump administration has pinpointed the launch site for Saturday’s attacks on Saudi Arabia’s oil infrastructure.
According to a senior US official who spoke to CBS, the US “has identified the exact locations in Iran from which a combination of more than 20 drones and cruise missiles was launched against the Saudi oil facilities”, the network’s Sara Cook said.
The news comes after days of speculation following Mike Pompeo’s Saturday tweet which unequivocally put the blame on Iran. Trump’s top diplomat assessed there was “no evidence” to support the Houthis’ claims of responsibility.
On Sunday, unnamed US officials claimed the Yemen-based Quds proxy does not possess the munitions used in the attacks and on Monday, Riyadh said their “preliminary” investigation shows Iranian weapons were used in the strikes.
The attacks were launched “from southern Iran at the northern end of the Persian Gulf”, according to the official who spoke to CBS.
As for why the Saudis didn’t intercept, the official claims the kingdom’s air defenses “are all oriented south to protect against Houthi missile attacks from Yemen and were useless against missiles coming in from the north”.
If the US runs with this narrative or, stripped of the obligatory skepticism, if Trump decides this intelligence is reliable enough to definitively assign blame, it’s not a stretch to suggest that US airstrikes are in the offing, although that comes with its own caveat about the US president being wary of plunging headlong into a war with Iran.
The Saudis appear to be lining up to make similar claims. “Saudi Arabia is increasingly confident that Iran directly launched a complex missile and drone attack from its southern territory on Saturday”, the Wall Street Journal said Tuesday, adding that “the drones and missiles appeared to have flown low to the ground, so that they weren’t detected by Saudi radar or defense systems early on Saturday morning”.
Later, the New York Times supplied further color. To wit:
The Saudis have recovered pristine circuit boards from one of the cruise missiles that fell short of its target, providing forensics specialists the possibility of tracing the missile’s point of origin, according to a senior American official briefed on the intelligence.
One theory gaining traction among American officials is that the cruise missiles were launched from Iran and programmed to fly around the northern Persian Gulf through Iraqi air space instead of directly across the gulf where the United States has much better surveillance, one senior official said.
Some officials said they have come to believe the cruise missiles were launched from Iran, but others familiar with the intelligence noted that the evidence is not yet irrefutable, and Tehran has taken steps to obscure the origin of the strike.
US lawmakers on Monday received classified documents on the attacks.
“This administration weaponizes intelligence in a way that I’ve never seen before”, Democrat Chris Murphy said. “They go out and make these broad statements about what they think the intelligence says, the president sometimes drops photos into tweets, and then we don’t have briefings”.
For his part, Lindsey Graham sounds like he’s fully on board with abrogating any and all responsibility for Congress in favor of letting Trump decide whether to take the country to war. The president doesn’t need lawmakers’ consent to strike Iran, Graham said Monday. “I’ve never believed that”, he added. Over the weekend, Graham called for strikes on Iran’s oil refineries.
During the Jamal Khashoggi drama, the White House demonstrated beyond a shadow of a doubt that Trump is willing to spurn lawmakers in order to protect the interests of Mohammed Bin Salman. With all due respect to the late Mr. Khashoggi, that was one dissident journalist. This is Saudi Arabia’s oil.
Democratic Senator Ron Wyden thinks this is madness. “The idea that we’re going to get in a war with Iran over Saudi oil is just to me about as far-fetched as you can get”, Ron mused.
That’s a common sense read, Ron, but we threw common sense out the window on November 9, 2016.