- US media say military officials will provide the president with various military options, including a list of targets inside Iran for airstrikes.
- The US decision on how to respond to the attack is likely to depend on the nature of the evidence.
- The military response encompasses a wide range of airstrikes, including oilfield installations, and cyberattacks on Revolutionary Guard centers.
On Friday, US Department of Defense officials planned to present military options against Iran at a meeting with President Donald Trump. Last Saturday, Saudi Arabia’s oil facilities were attacked and severely damaged in two locations north of the country. The attack cut half of Saudi Arabia’s oil production and had an immediate impact on world oil prices. Although the Yemeni Houthi group claimed responsibility for the attacks, and said they carried out the simultaneous flight of ten UAVs, Saudi and US officials said the attack was carried out by Iran.
US media say military officials will provide the president with various military options, including a list of targets inside Iran for airstrikes, according to government sources. They will also discuss the possible consequences of these attacks, which could involve the US in a direct war with Iran, according to the Washington Post.
By contrast, Iranian officials have denied the allegations, and endorsed the Houthis’ statements, saying they had the technical and military capability to carry out such attacks without the support of others. According to observers, Friday’s National Security Council meeting will be a rare opportunity to consider different ways to deal with a US ally in the Middle East, and to decide how to respond.
Earlier, a number of Saudi and US officials have stated they obtained evidence that Saudi oil facilities had been targeted by cruise missiles fired from Iranian soil. A team of US experts is currently dispatched to Saudi Arabia to participate in investigations into the attack, including investigating the remains of rockets launched Saturday.
The US decision on how to respond to the attack is likely to depend on the nature of the evidence. Some observers believe that, given the region’s sensitivity, as well as the unwillingness of President Trump to enter a new war close to the 2020 presidential election, the US would prefer any response to Saturday’s attack to enjoy widespread global support.
A number of countries have condemned the attack on Saudi oil facilities. At the request of Saudi Arabia, the United Nations Secretary-General has sent a group of independent experts to Saudi Arabia to assess the available evidence and cooperate in identifying the cause of the attack. A French expert group has also gone to Saudi Arabia.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Vice President Mike Pence will also attend Friday’s meeting. They have described the attack on Saudi oil facilities as an “act of war,” which means direct military action by one government against another, and could create a right of retaliation.
While declaring that the United States is ready to respond to the attack, Trump declined to comment specifically on the type of response, and postponed the decision. At the same time, he has ordered tighter sanctions against Iran.
According to observers, military, political and economic reactions are being considered as military and civilian officials attend the National Security Council meeting. The military response, in turn, encompasses a wide range of airstrikes, including oilfield installations, and cyberattacks on Revolutionary Guard centers.
One of the options considered would include further US assistance in strengthening Saudi Arabia’s anti-aircraft and anti-missile coverage to protect the country against missile attacks from the north. Some military sources have said that due to repeated Yemeni Houthi UAVs and missile attacks, defensive equipment at Saudi Arabian oil centers was planned to counter attacks from the south, and was therefore unable to respond to a missile attack from the north.
US Army Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford has said the military could carry out a wide range of retaliatory measures, but the response to Saturday’s attack was a political decision, not a military one. The United States has extensive military equipment and facilities in the Middle East, including naval, air, and ground units. According to US sources, the United States is planning to send more equipment to Saudi Arabia to strengthen its defense capabilities.