US presses Iran back to negotiations

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(VOVWORLD) - Though Houthi rebels have claimed responsibility for the September 14 drone attacks on Saudi oil facilities on September 14, the US and its Middle East allies are blaming Iran for the attacks. US President Donald Trump on Wednesday ordered increased sanctions on Iran. Iran vowed to retaliate promptly. The US is maintaining maximum pressure on Iran to force Iran back to nuclear talks.

Houthi rebels in Yemen said they fired unmanned aerial vehicles targeting two oil facilities - Abqaid, the world’s largest oil processing facility, and the Khurais oil field in eastern Saudi Arabia in retaliation for Saudi-led airstrikes during the 5-year war in Yemen. But the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen says the two oil facilities were more likely attacked by drones from Iran. A spokesperson for the coalition has said the attacks were not launched from Yemeni and the Houthi rebels are liars.

Increasing accusations

President Trump and US partners and allies in the Middle East accused Iran of being the culprit. They said there is no evidence the attacks were launched from Yemen, and insist the attacks were sponsored by Iran. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is in Saudi Arabia to discuss ways to retaliate. US Defense Secretary Mark Esper says the US and its allies are working closely to protect international laws before being undercut by Iran. President Trump ordered Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to increase sanctions on Iran. Trump said “There are many options. There’s the ultimate option and there are options that are a lot less than that.”  Trump told reporters in Los Angeles that the ultimate option means go in — war.” The Saudi government showed broken and burnt pieces found at the attacked oil facilities that they say are the remains of Iran’s drones.

3 months ago when two oil tankers were attacked near the Strait Hormuz, the US immediately accused Iran of being the culprit and showed evidence for the accusation.

Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif denies Iran played any role in the attacks . he says Washington is shifting from a failed campaign of “maximum pressure” to one of “maximum lying” and “deceit” against the Islamic Republic. Tehran says it will immediately retaliate against any US move against Iran.

Pressing Iran to return to negotiation

Many countries are calling for an objective and thorough investigation. The UN will send experts to Saudi Arabia to start a probe into the attacks under a UNSC resolution on the 2015 Iran nuclear deal and a resolution on weapons sanctions on Yemen. UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres warned of “devastating” consequences if the crisis escalates.

US-Iran tensions have been high since President Trump withdrew the US from the nuclear deal between Iran and western powers. Since then the US has re-imposed and increased sanctions on Iran’s financial network and oil exports – its key economic sector.