Saudi attack likely originated in Iran or Iraq, senior administration official says

Posted Sunday, 15 September 2019 ‐ CNN

Washington (CNN)A day after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo blamed Iran for the attack on Saudi oil facilities and argued there is "no evidence the attacks came from Yemen," a senior administration official briefed CNN on information to back up Pompeo's claims.The official pointed to the angle at which Saudi oil facilities were attacked, the numbers of points of impact and other information to argue that it is unlikely the attacks were carried out by Yemen. Instead, the official suggested the attack most likely originated in Iran or Iraq."It is very difficult to see how these things could have come from anywhere but Iran or Iraq," the senior administration official said.The official said 19 Saudi targets were struck in Saturday's attack and argued that such an attack could not be carried out with 10 drones, which the Houthis claimed to have used."You can't hit 19 targets with 10 drones like that," the official said.The official, drawing on commercial satellite imagery shared with CNN, also noted that "all the points of impact on Saudi facilities were on the northwest side of them, which is somewhat difficult to do from Yemen." The official could not say whether it's possible drones from Yemen could have angled around to attack northwest facilities.The official also pointed to open source reports that Kuwait detected a drone in its airspace prior to the attack in Saudi Arabia and noted that the Iraqis "have been very explicit" that the attack did not originate in their airspace, suggesting Iran was the most likely point of origin."If this was a military offensive launched from Iran to Saudi Arabia, that is extremely serious," the official said.The official declined to say what retaliatory options the administration was considering and said that "the President wants all options on the table."The official also pointed to Saudi intelligence suggesting a possible cruise missile attack, but said the US had not yet corroborated that information.The private satellite images come at a time of escalating tension between Iran and the US following a series of other provocations in recent months, notably Tehran shooting down a US drone aircraft in June paired with an increased American military presence in the region. The confrontations have raised fears that a conflict between the two countries could spiral.On Saturday, coordinated strikes on key Saudi Arabian oil facilities -- among the world's largest energy production centers -- disrupted 5% of the daily global oil supply. Yemen's Houthi rebels took responsibility for the attacks, but they are often backed by Iran.Preliminary indications -- even before commercial images of the oil processing plant were released -- suggested the attack did not originate from Yemen and likely originated from Iraq, according to a source with knowledge of the incident. The same official said the damage was caused by an armed drone attack.Iranian President Hassan Rouhani did not specifically reference the attack on the Saudi Arabia's oil facilities in an address on Iran's Press TV Sunday but did accuse Americans of running a "war operation" by "supporting the UAE and Saudi Arabia, transferring weapons, and providing intelligence.""What is happening in this region today has created concern among majority of world countries," he said.Earlier Sunday White House senior counselor Kellyanne Conway said President Donald Trump has "many options on the table" when it comes to responding to the strike on Saudi Arabia's oil production this weekend."The President will always consider his options," Conway said on "Fox News Sunday" when asked if Trump would still sit down with Rouhani under current circumstances. "We've never committed to that meeting at the United Nations General Assembly. The President's just said he's looking at it.""When you attack Saudi Arabia ... you're not helping your case much," she added.After Secretary of State Mike Pompeo pinned the blame on Iran for the attack on Saturday, Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Seyyed Abbas Mousavi rejected the accusation, labeling it "inappropriate.""Such blind accusations and inappropriate comments in a diplomatic context are incomprehensible and meaningless," he said, adding: "Even hostility needs a certain degree of credibility and reasonable frameworks, US officials have also violated these basic principles."CNN's Kylie Atwood, Ryan Browne, Bianca Britton, John Defterios and Victoria Cavaliere contributed to this report.

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