Armed drones attacked an oil pumping station in Saudi Arabia Tuesday, pushing up oil prices and further inflaming tensions in the region a day after the Saudi government and officials in the U.S. blamed Iran for a series of explosions that damaged four oil tankers in the nearby Gulf of Oman.
Khalid Al Falih, the Saudi Energy Minister, called
the drone attack an “act of terrorism,” and said the country needed to confront terrorist groups like the Houthi rebels in neighboring Yemen, who are backed by Iran.
U.S. and Saudi officials accused Iran on Monday of spearheading an attack on four oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman, setting countries on and around the Arabian peninsula on edge.
Damage to the ships were minimal, but Iran denied
the charge and accused the U.S. of “escalating the situation.”
U.S. officials provided
no evidence that Iran encouraged, ordered, or carried out the attack.
Over the last few months, the Trump administration has focused more of its attention on Iran, and its rhetoric has taken on an increasingly bellicose edge.
In April the Trump administration took the provocative step
of designating Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps a terrorist organization, despite warnings
from the Pentagon that such a move could endanger Americans in the region and engender a backlash from the Iranian government.
A Pentagon plan to deploy a significant U.S. force to the Persian Gulf in response to Iranian provocations, released last week to top U.S. national security officials, underscored mounting tensions in the region and a growing sense that the United States and Iran could be moving closer to military conflict.
The plan, first reported
by the New York Times, was put together at the behest of National Security Advisor John Bolton, an indefatigable critic of Iran and longstanding
advocate for regime change, and calls for sending 120,000 troops overseas if Iran attacks U.S. forces or restarts its nuclear weapons program.
President Trump on Tuesday denied
the report by the Times, calling it “fake news” and promising that, if it were true, he would be sending a bigger force.
If that bigger force ever arrives in the Middle-East, it will join several warships, including an aircraft carrier, a Patriot missile battery, and a bombing taskforce, all of which were ordered
to the Persian Gulf last week as a show of force to the Iranians.