Iran’s foreign minister warned Thursday that any attack on his country over a drone-and-missile strike on Saudi Arabia’s oil industry would result in “all-out war,” further pushing up tensions across the Persian Gulf.
The comments by Mohammad Javad Zarif represent the starkest warning offered yet by Iran in a long summer of mysterious attacks and incidents following the collapse of Iran’s nuclear deal with world powers, over a year after US President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew America from the accord.
Yemen’s Iranian-backed Houthi rebels have claimed the attack, but the US alleges Iran carried out the assault.
Zarif’s comments also appeared to be in response to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who a day earlier while traveling to Saudi Arabia referred to the attack as an “act of war.”
Asked by CNN what would be the consequence of a US or Saudi strike, Zarif said: “All-out war.”
“We won’t blink to defend our territory,” he said. “I’m making a very serious statement that we don’t want war. We don’t want to engage in a military confrontation.
“We believe that we do not need war in this region,” he added. “We believe that we need dialogue, we need cooperation, we need confidence building in this region.”
.@npwcnn: What would be the consequence of an American or Saudi military strike on Iran now?
Iran Foreign Minister Javad Zarif: An all-out war.
— CNN International (@cnni) September 19, 2019
Pompeo wrote a tweet early Thursday after his meeting with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Jiddah over Saturday’s drone and cruise missile attack on a crucial oil processing facility and oil field.
Pompeo called the attacks “unprecedented.”
“The US stands with #SaudiArabia and supports its right to defend itself,” Pompeo said. “The Iranian regime’s threatening behavior will not be tolerated.”
Pompeo did not elaborate. Trump has been noncommittal on whether he would order US military retaliation. He separately said Wednesday he is moving to increase financial sanctions on Tehran over the attack, without elaborating. Iran already is subject to a crushing American sanctions program targeting its crucial oil industry.
Also on Thursday, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said that a claim by Yemeni rebels that they launched the attacks “lacks credibility.”
On Wednesday, Saudi Arabia displayed what it said were fragments of 25 drones and cruise missiles, which it said proved the attack was carried out by Tehran.
Pompeo left Jiddah on Thursday for the United Arab Emirates to meet with Abu Dhabi’s powerful crown prince, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan. The UAE is a close ally of Saudi Arabia and joined the kingdom in its war in Yemen against the Houthis.
The UAE announced Thursday it had joined a US-led coalition to protect waterways across the Mideast after the attack on Saudi oil installations.
The state-run WAM news agency quoted Salem al-Zaabi of the Emirati Foreign Ministry as saying the UAE joined the coalition to “ensure global energy security and the continued flow of energy supplies to the global economy.”
Saudi Arabia joined the coalition on Wednesday. Australia, Bahrain and the United Kingdom also are taking part.
Pompeo tweeted his appreciation for the UAE and Saudi Arabia joining the coalition.
“Recent events underscore the importance of protecting global commerce and freedom of navigation,” he wrote.
The US formed the coalition after attacks on oil tankers that American officials blame on Iran, as well as Iran’s seizure of tankers in the region. Iran denies being behind the tanker explosions, though the attacks came after Tehran threatened to stop oil exports from the Persian Gulf.