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Saudi Arabia says Iran missiles, drones attacked oil sites

Last Updated Sep 18, 2019 at 10:26 am PDT

The Saudi military displays what they say are an Iranian cruise missile and drones used in recent attack on its oil industry at Saudi Aramco's facilities in Abqaiq and Khurais, during a press conference in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2019. (AP Photo/Amr Nabil)

Saudi Arabia accused Iran of being involved in, but not directly behind, a missile, drone attack on oil facility

Iran denies being involved in the attack claimed by Yemeni rebels

Iran has threatened the U.S. that it will retaliate 'immediately' if Tehran is targeted in response

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — Saudi Arabia alleged Wednesday an attack by drones and cruise missiles on the heart of the kingdom’s oil industry was “unquestionably sponsored by Iran,” naming but not directly accusing Tehran of launching the assault. Iran denies being involved in the attack claimed by Yemeni rebels, and has threatened the U.S. that it will retaliate “immediately” if Tehran is targeted in response.

The news conference by Saudi military spokesman Col. Turki al-Malki comes after a summer of heightened tensions between Iran and the U.S. over President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrawing America from Tehran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers. The U.S. alleges Iran launched the attack, which Yemen’s Houthi rebels earlier claimed as a response to the yearslong Saudi-led war there that’s killed tens of thousands of people.

Al-Malki made a point not to directly accuse Iran of firing the weapons or launching them from inside of Iranian territory. The kingdom has sought help from international investigators and the United Nations, both lengthening the probe and internationalizing its conclusions.

“The attack was launched from the north and was unquestionably sponsored by Iran,” al-Malki told journalists.

By stopping short of saying the missiles were launched from Iran, the kingdom potentially avoids a response that could lead to war among the heavyweight countries of the region and international superpower, the United States. However, not retaliating to the strikes also carries the risk of leaving Saudi Arabia exposed to continued attacks.

The news conference took place with a backdrop of broken and burnt drones and pieces of one cruise missile allegedly collected from the attacks.

Al-Malki described the drones as “delta wing” models, which looked like large triangles. The cruise missile, which al-Malki described as a “Ya Ali” type, had a small jet engine attached to it.

Eighteen drones and seven cruise missiles were launched in the assault, Al-Malki said, with three missiles failing to make their targets. He said the cruise missiles had a range of 700 kilometers (435 miles), meaning they could not have been fired from inside Yemen. He played surveillance video he said showed a drone coming in from the north. Satellite images released earlier by the U.S. showed damage largely on the north-facing sides of structures at the sites.

“This is the kind of weapon the Iranian regime and the Iranian IRGC are using against the civilian object and facilities infrastructure,” he said, using an acronym for Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard.

He added: “This attack did not originate from Yemen, despite Iran’s best effort to make it appear so.”

Iran sent a note to the U.S. via Swiss diplomats in Tehran on Monday, reiterating that Tehran denies being involved in the Saudi attack, the country’s state-run IRNA news agency reported. The Swiss have looked after American interests in Tehran for decades.