President Trump: US is "locked and loaded depending on verification" of attack on Saudi oil supply

The president says he was "waiting to hear from" Saudi Arabia "as to who they believe was the cause of this attack"

By Matthew Rozsa

Staff Writer

Published September 16, 2019 9:49AM (EDT)


President Donald Trump announced Sunday that the U.S. was "locked and loaded" to respond to this weekend's attack on Saudi Arabia's oil supply "depending on verification" from the Middle Eastern nation.

"Saudi Arabia oil supply was attacked. There is reason to believe that we know the culprit, are locked and loaded depending on verification, but are waiting to hear from the Kingdom as to who they believe was the cause of this attack, and under what terms we would proceed!" Trump tweeted on Sunday.

Saturday's attack disrupted 5 percent of the daily global oil supply, according to CNN. While Secretary of State Mike Pompeo claimed the Iranian government was behind the attacks, the Yemeni Houthi rebels, who are backed by Iran, have claimed sole responsibility. Other nations have been more hesitant to attribute blame, with the European Union refraining from identifying any culprits.

"Tehran is behind nearly 100 attacks on Saudi Arabia while (President Hassan) Rouhani and (Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad) Zarif pretend to engage in diplomacy," 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 secretary of state added, "We call on all nations to publicly and unequivocally condemn Iran’s attacks. The United States will work with our partners and allies to ensure that energy markets remain well supplied and Iran is held accountable for its aggression."

Denying that Iran was responsible for the attacks, Zarif responded to Pompeo on Twitter.

"Having failed at 'max pressure', @SecPompeo's turning to 'max deceit,'" Zarif wrote. "US & its clients are stuck in Yemen because of illusion that weapon superiority will lead to military victory. Blaming Iran won't end disaster. Accepting our April '15 proposal to end war & begin talks may."

Trump has aroused controversy in the past over his willingness to defer to the Saudi royal family, in particular Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, on matters of foreign policy. After the assassination of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi last year, Trump wrote that "King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman vigorously deny any knowledge of the planning or execution of the murder of Mr. Khashoggi. Our intelligence agencies continue to assess all information, but it could very well be that the Crown Prince had knowledge of this tragic event -- maybe he did and maybe he didn't!"

Trump has a long history of business ties with Saudi Arabia that continue into the present. In 1995, a group of investors led by a Saudi prince acquired the Plaza Hotel in a $325 million deal, which paid off Trump Organization debts on the property. Members of the Saudi royal family have long acquired real estate at Trump properties, including the sale of the 45th floor of Trump World Tower for $12 million and the purchase of a triplex Trump Place apartment. Trump also sold a 23-foot yacht to a Saudi prince in 1991 for $20 million and in 2015 stated on video that "Saudi Arabia. I get along with all of them. They buy apartments from me. They spend $40 million. $50 million." There has been a notable increase in Saudi visitors to Washington's Trump International Hotel in Washington, New York's Trump International Hotel in Manhattan and Chicago's Trump International Hotel and Tower since Trump was elected president.

America's intelligence agencies unanimously agreed that the Saudi royal family was behind Khashoggi's murder, with even usual Trump allies like Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., criticizing the president's response by writing that "likewise, it is not in our national security interests to look the other way when it comes to the brutal murder of Mr. Jamal #Khashoggi. I firmly believe there will be strong bipartisan support for serious sanctions against Saudi Arabia, including appropriate members of the royal family, for this barbaric act which defied all civilized norms. While Saudi Arabia is a strategic ally, the behavior of the Crown Prince – in multiple ways – has shown disrespect for the relationship and made him, in my view, beyond toxic. I fully realize we have to deal with bad actors and imperfect situations on the international stage. However, when we lose our moral voice, we lose our strongest asset."

During an interview with Salon earlier this year, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright discussed the humanitarian tragedy occurring in Yemen as a result of the policies implemented by the U.S., Saudi Arabia and Iran.

"I don’t know why the Yemen thing has not attracted more attention because it really is a huge tragedy," Albright told Salon. "A proxy war between Iran and Saudi Arabia is being played out on the heads, literally, of the Yemenis."

She added, "The part that I find truly horrible is that some American military equipment is actually being used in terms of some of the tragedies of shootings and various things that are going on in Yemen. I think that it’s awful that we’re not paying attention to the humanitarian aspect of it."

By Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a staff writer at Salon. He received a Master's Degree in History from Rutgers-Newark in 2012 and was awarded a science journalism fellowship from the Metcalf Institute in 2022.

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