US v Iran: Trump threatens military action amid top bank sanctions over Saudi oil attack
Mr Trump did not give any other details about the sanctions. US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the bank was Tehran’s last source of funds. Iran has consistently denied involvement in the attacks, which threaten to push oil prices up, with Houthi rebels in Yemen originally claiming responsibility.
Asked about the possibility of a military response on Iran, Mr Trump said the United States was always prepared and that a military strike was always a possibility.
Iran has denied any involvement in the September 14 attack, which shook global oil markets and ratcheted up tensions between Washington and Tehran. On Friday, Saudi officials took media to inspect the affected facilities. Saudi Arabia also blames the attacks on Iran.
Mr Trump, who spoke to reporters at the White House alongside visiting Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, has said he wants a peaceful solution to the conflict following the weekend oil attacks. His secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, has called the attacks an “act of war.”
The US Treasury said sanctions had also imposed on Iran-based company Etemad Tejarate Pars, which it said is used to conceal financial transfers for iranian defense purchases.
Saudi Arabia has taken journalists to the site of a missile and drone strike on the kingdom’s oil industry that shook global energy markets over the weekend.
The journalists arrived at the Abqaiq oil processing facility, described by state-run oil giant Saudi Aramco as “the largest crude oil stabilisation plant in the world”.
Video shot of the September 14 attack showed flames leaping into the air just before dawn, with thick black smoke rising from the site visible from space.
Iran denies being involved in the attack and its foreign minister has warned that any retaliatory strike by the US or Saudi Arabia will result in “an all-out war”.
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Yemen’s Iranian-allied Houthis claimed the assault, but analysts say the missiles used would not have enough range to reach the site from Yemen.
The missiles and drones also resemble Iranian-made weapons, although analysts say more study is needed to definitively link them to Tehran.
Saudi Arabia also flew journalists to its Khurais oil field to see the damage from the attack.
The oil field is believed to produce more than a million barrels of crude oil a day, and has estimated reserves of over 20 billion barrels, according to Aramco.
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Officials said 110 contractors evacuated the site after the attack, but there were no injuries.
They told journalists the oil field was back online within 24 hours of the attack.
An oil stabilisation tower could be seen bearing damage from the attack, standing charred in the heat of the Saudi desert. Other pipes bore holes from damage in the attack.
The Abqaiq facility processes sour crude oil into sweet crude, then transports it to shipment points on the Persian Gulf and the Red Sea or to refineries for local production.
Estimates suggest it can process up to seven million barrels of crude oil a day. Saudi Arabia produced 9.65 million barrels a day in July.
The plant has been targeted in the past by militants. Al Qaida-claimed suicide bombers tried but failed to attack the oil complex in February 2006.
Elsewhere on Friday, Kuwait raised the security levels at its ports in response to the attacks.
The state-run KUNA news agency published the decision, quoting Kuwait’s minister of commerce and industry. Khaled al-Roudhan said the decision affected commercial ports as well as oil facilities.
State news agency IRNA reported General Yahya Rahim-Safavi, a senior adviser to Iran’s supreme leader Hassan Rouhani as saying: “If the Americans think of any plots, the Iranian nation will respond from the Mediterranean, to the Red Sea and to the Indian Ocean”
Meanwhile Lebanon’s Hezbollah warned Saudi Arabia on Friday against betting on a war against Iran because it would destroy the country and urged Riyadh and the United Arab Emirates to halt the war in Yemen instead of buying more air defences.
Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said in a televised speech: “Don’t bet on a war against Iran because they will destroy you.
“Your house is made of glass and your economy is made of glass. Like the glass cities in the UAE.”
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