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Pompeo to travel to Saudi Arabia after attack on oil facilities

The Hill logo The Hill 9/17/2019 Tal Axelrod
Mike Pompeo wearing a suit and tie: Pompeo to travel to Saudi Arabia after attack on oil facilities © Getty Images Pompeo to travel to Saudi Arabia after attack on oil facilities

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will travel to Saudi Arabia on Tuesday after an attack on two of the kingdom's oil facilities.

Pompeo will arrive in Jeddah on Wednesday to meet with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to discuss the attack and coordinate efforts to combat "Iranian aggression in the region," the State Department said Tuesday.

The secretary will then travel to Abu Dhabi to meet Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, the crown prince of the United Arab Emirates, to discuss regional and bilateral issues.

The trip follows a weekend assault on Saudi Arabia's Khurais oil field and Abqaiq oil processing plant. The attack left the facilities on fire and shut off half the country's oil exports, or 5 percent of the world's supply, causing spikes in oil prices.

Yemen's Houthi rebels, who are supported by Iran, initially took credit for Saturday's strikes, but some administration officials have laid the blame directly on Tehran.

"Tehran is behind nearly 100 attacks on Saudi Arabia," Pompeo tweeted Saturday. "Amid all the calls for de-escalation, Iran has now launched an unprecedented attack on the world's energy supply. There is no evidence the attacks came from Yemen."

The attacks present a crossroads for President Trump, who is mulling a response that could include a strike on the Iranian oil infrastructure.

The president said Sunday the military was "locked and loaded" but has since appeared hesitant to definitively say that the attack was ordered by or emanated from Iran, Saudi Arabia's chief regional rival.

"We have a lot of options, but I'm not looking at options right now. We want to find definitively who did this," Trump told reporters Monday, adding that it's "certainly looking" like Iran is responsible.

"That was an attack on Saudi Arabia; that wasn't an attack on us. But we would certainly help them," Trump said.

The president spoke with Crown Prince Mohammed on Saturday after the attacks, with the White House saying in a statement it is "committed to ensuring global oil markets are stable and well supplied."

The Houthis have launched attacks on oil fields in Saudi Arabia before, but this weekend's strikes were more sophisticated than past assaults.

Iran has denied any involvement in the attacks, with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani saying they were a "reciprocal response" to Riyadh's brutal air campaign against the Houthis in Yemen, which has killed thousands of civilians and helped fuel one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world.

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