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Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Trump Hedges On Next Steps With Blamed Iran

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President Trump on Monday said it “looks” as if Iran is responsible for weekend attacks on Saudi Arabian oil facilities, but he stopped short of definitively blaming Tehran and said he is not “looking” for war.

“I’m not looking to get into [a] new conflict, but sometimes you have to,” he told reporters in the Oval Office. The president said he is not “concerned at all” about a potential war with Iran, adding that he’d “like to avoid it” while boasting the United States is well prepared for any scenario.

Trump’s comments differed from those of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who said on Saturday that Iran was behind the sophisticated attacks, not Yemen’s Houthi rebels, who initially claimed responsibility.

The president, suddenly faced with a new set of circumstances with Iran, said he will send his influential adviser Pompeo to Saudi Arabia to discuss next steps, a plan that appeared to open the door to international engagement before deciding what, if any, action to take. U.S. investigators arrived in Saudi Arabia to gather evidence.

World leaders are scheduled to meet next week in New York for the United Nations General Assembly, and the outcome of a Tuesday election in Israel remains uncertain for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who condemns Iran as a powerful enemy of Israel. Trump told reporters he had not pledged U.S. protection to ally Saudi Arabia. 

The Hill: Trump says he wants to avoid war with Iran.

Trump, who prior to the attacks said he was willing to negotiate without preconditions with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani about a new nuclear deal, is faced with suddenly more complicated terrain. He must decide how to respond to what U.S. officials on Sunday described as coordinated military strikes against Saudi petroleum facilities, which appeared from intelligence data to originate in Iran. Trump has said the United States is “locked and loaded,” but he has also stated his desire to avoid military conflict with Iran.

The Associated Press: Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, announced today “there will be no talks with the U.S. at any level,” according to Iran’s state TV. The remarks apparently are intended to end speculation about a possible U.S.-Iran meeting between the two countries’ presidents at the United Nations next week.

U.S. lawmakers who are worried about the potential for military conflict with Tehran are on high alert, warning Trump that he would need to seek congressional approval before ordering any military action (The Hill).

The New York Times: A Saudi government statement on Monday said, “Initial investigations have indicated that the weapons used in the attack were Iranian weapons.” But the Saudis stopped short of directly blaming Iran for the attack.

The New York Times: Who was behind the Saudi oil attack? What the evidence shows.

The Washington Post: Iran’s strategic use of drones and missiles rattles Middle East rivals.

The Washington Post: Trump’s rationale for helping Saudi Arabia is not about domestic petroleum supplies, he tweeted: “We don’t need Middle Eastern Oil & Gas, & in fact have very few tankers there, but will help our Allies!”

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