Saudi Arabia says it was not consulted on Soleimani strike, urges calm
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Saudi Arabia says it was not consulted on Soleimani strike, urges calm

Kingdom, vulnerable to possible reprisal attacks after American drone strike targeting top Iranian general, reportedly sending prince to US, UK to plead for restraint

Illustrative: US President Donald Trump, left, speaks with Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman during family photo session at G-20 leaders summit in Osaka, Japan, June 28, 2019. (Kim Kyung-Hoon/Pool Photo via AP)
Illustrative: US President Donald Trump, left, speaks with Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman during family photo session at G-20 leaders summit in Osaka, Japan, June 28, 2019. (Kim Kyung-Hoon/Pool Photo via AP)

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — Saudi Arabia was not consulted by Washington over a US drone strike that killed a top Iranian general, an official said Sunday, as the kingdom sought to defuse soaring regional tensions.

Saudi Arabia is vulnerable to possible Iranian reprisals after Tehran vowed “revenge” following the strike on Friday that killed powerful commander Qassem Soleimani in Baghdad.

“The kingdom of Saudi Arabia was not consulted regarding the US strike,” a Saudi official told AFP, requesting anonymity.

“In light of the rapid developments, the kingdom stresses the importance of exercising restraint to guard against all acts that may lead to escalation, with severe consequences,” the official added.

Mourners attend a funeral ceremony for Gen. Qassem Soleimani, who was killed in Iraq in a US drone strike, held in the southwestern city of Ahvaz, Iran, Jan. 5, 2020. (Morteza Jaberian/Mehr News Agency via AP)

Saudi Arabia’s foreign ministry echoed a similar call for restraint over the weekend and King Salman emphasized the need for measures to calm tensions in a phone call on Saturday with Iraqi President Barham Saleh.

In a separate phone call with Iraq’s Prime Minister Adel Abdel Mahdi, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman stressed “the need to make efforts to calm the situation and de-escalate tensions,” the official Saudi Press Agency reported.

The crown prince has instructed Prince Khalid bin Salman, his younger brother and deputy defense minister, to travel to Washington and London in the next few days to urge restraint, the pan-Arab Asharq al-Awsat newspaper reported.

Prince Khalid will meet White House and US defense officials, the paper said, citing unnamed sources.

The killing of Soleimani, described as the second most powerful man in Iran, is the most dramatic escalation yet in spiraling tensions between Washington and Tehran and has prompted fears of a major conflagration in the Middle East.

US President Donald Trump, who ordered the drone strike, has warned that Washington will hit Iran “very fast and very hard” if the Islamic Republic attacks American personnel or assets.

Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, both allies of Washington, are also vulnerable to Iranian counter strikes, analysts say.

A string of attacks attributed to Iran has caused anxiety in recent months as Riyadh and Washington deliberated over how to react.

In this September 20, 2019, photo, taken during a trip organized by the Saudi information ministry, workers fix the damage in Aramco’s oil separator at a processing facility after the September 14 attack blamed on Iran in Abqaiq near Dammam in the Kingdom’s Eastern Province. (AP Photo/Amr Nabil)

In particular, devastating strikes against Saudi oil installations last September led Riyadh and Abu Dhabi to adopt a more conciliatory approach aimed at avoiding confrontation with Tehran.

Analysts warn that pro-Iran groups have the capacity to carry out attacks on US bases in Gulf states as well as against shipping in the Strait of Hormuz — the strategic waterway that Tehran could close at will.

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