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Iran:All Out War on Attack Retaliation 09/20 06:23

   Any attack on Iran by the U.S. or Saudi Arabia will spark an "all-out war," 
Tehran's top diplomat warned Thursday, raising the stakes as Washington and 
Riyadh weigh a response to a drone-and-missile strike on the kingdom's oil 
industry that shook global energy markets.

   DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) -- Any attack on Iran by the U.S. or Saudi 
Arabia will spark an "all-out war," Tehran's top diplomat warned Thursday, 
raising the stakes as Washington and Riyadh weigh a response to a 
drone-and-missile strike on the kingdom's oil industry that shook global energy 
markets.

   The comments by Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif represented the 
starkest warning yet by Iran in a long summer of mysterious attacks and 
incidents following the collapse of Iran's 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, 
more than a year after President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew the U.S. 
from the accord.

   They appeared to be aimed directly at U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, 
who while on a trip to the region earlier referred to Saturday's attack in 
Saudi Arabia as an "act of war."

   Along with the sharp language, however, there also were signals from both 
sides of wanting to avoid a confrontation.

   On Thursday evening, a spokesman at Iran's mission to the United Nations 
said Zarif and President Hassan Rouhani had received U.S. visas to attend next 
week's annual U.N. General Assembly meeting in New York.

   In his comments, Zarif sought to expose current strains between the 
Americans and the Saudis under Trump, who long has criticized U.S. wars in the 
Middle East.

   Trump's close relationship with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has 
been challenged by opponents following the killing of Washington Post columnist 
Jamal Khashoggi last year in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul and the kingdom's 
long, bloody war in Yemen. That country's Houthi rebels claimed the oil field 
attack Saturday in Saudi Arabia, although the U.S. alleges Iran carried it out.

   "I think it is important for the Saudi government to understand what they're 
what they're trying to achieve. Do they want to fight Iran until the last 
American soldier? Is that their aim?" Zarif asked in a CNN interview. "They can 
be assured that this won't be the case ... because Iran will defend itself."

   Asked by the broadcaster what would be the consequence of a U.S. or Saudi 
strike, Zarif bluntly said: "An all-out war."

   "I'm making a very serious statement that we don't want war. We don't want 
to engage in a military confrontation," he said. "We believe that a military 
confrontation based on deception is awful."

   Zarif, who was to travel to New York on Friday, added: "We'll have a lot of 
casualties, but we won't blink to defend our territory."

   Pompeo, who was in the United Arab Emirates, dismissed Zarif's remarks, 
saying: "I was here (doing) active diplomacy while the foreign minister of Iran 
is threatening all-out war to fight to the last American."

   Pompeo said he hoped Iran would choose a path toward peace, but he remained 
doubtful. He described "an enormous consensus in the region" that Iran carried 
out the attack.

   "There are still those today who think, 'Boy, if we just give Iran just a 
little bit more money they'll become a peaceful nation,'" he said. "We can see 
that that does not work."

   Pompeo met 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 with the Houthi rebels in Yemen. The 4-year-old war has killed tens of 
thousands of people and destroyed much of the country, with millions more 
driven from their homes and thrown into near starvation.

   On Wednesday, Pompeo met with the Saudi crown prince in Jiddah about the 
attack on the kingdom's crucial oil processing facility and oil field, which 
cut its oil production in half.

   While Pompeo struck a hard line, Trump has been noncommittal on whether he 
would order U.S. military retaliation. He said separately Wednesday that 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.

   The UAE said it had joined a U.S.-led coalition to protect waterways across 
the Middle East after the attack in Saudi Arabia.

   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.

   The U.S. formed the coalition after attacks on oil tankers that Washington 
blamed on Tehran, as well as Iran's seizure of tankers in the region. Iran 
denies being behind the tanker explosions, although the attacks came after 
Tehran threatened to stop oil exports from the Persian Gulf.

   Iraq said it would not join the coalition. The government in Baghdad, which 
is allied with both Iran and the U.S., has tried to keep a neutral stance amid 
the tensions.

   At a news conference Wednesday, the Saudis displayed broken and burned 
drones and pieces of a cruise missile that military spokesman Col. Turki 
Al-Malki identified as Iranian weapons collected after the attack. He also 
played surveillance video that he said showed a drone coming in from the north. 
Yemen is to the south of Saudi Arabia.

   Eighteen drones and seven cruise missiles were launched in the assault, 
Al-Malki said, with three missiles failing to hit their targets. He said the 
cruise missiles had a range of 700 kilometers (435 miles), meaning they could 
not have been fired from inside Yemen. That opinion was shared by weapons 
experts who spoke to The Associated Press .

   French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian similarly was skeptical of the 
Houthi claim of responsibility.

   "This is not very credible, relatively speaking," he told CNews television. 
"But we sent our experts to have our own vision of things."

   Separately, a U.N. panel of experts on Yemen arrived in Saudi Arabia to 
investigate the attack, U.N. spokesman Farhan Haq said.


(KR)

 
 
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