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Pompeo Heads To Saudi Arabia As U.S. Weighs Response To Saudi Oil Attack

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence (file photo)
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence (file photo)

Vice President Mike Pence says the U.S. military is "ready to defend" the interests of the country's allies, and that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is en route to Saudi Arabia to "discuss our response" to an attack on Saudi Arabian oil facilities over the weekend.

In a September 17 speech at the Heritage Foundation think tank in Washington, Pence said the United States was reviewing evidence that suggests Iran was behind the attack, and was consulting with its allies before President Donald Trump determines "the best course of action in the days ahead."

"We're locked and loaded and we're ready to defend our interests and allies in the region, make no mistake about it," he said.

If Iran conducted the September 14 attack to pressure Trump to lighten sanctions aimed at pressuring Tehran over its nuclear program, that strategy will fail, the vice president added.

On September 16, Trump said that it was increasingly "looking like" Iran was behind the attack, but that it was still too early to be sure.

He told reporters in Washington that the United States didn't want war but was ready to help a key ally in the Persian Gulf region counter the attack once a "definitive" determination is made on who was responsible.

"I don't want war with anybody but we're prepared," Trump said, adding that talks with allies in the Persian Gulf region and in Europe would precede any U.S. strike.

The United States has issued satellite images and cited intelligence to back its allegation that Iran was behind the attack.

Iran denies involvement in the air attack, which was claimed by Iranian-backed Yemeni Huthi rebels, who said drones were used.

Unnamed U.S. officials said the attack was launched from Iranian soil and cruise missiles were involved.

The attack disabled about half of Saudi Arabia's oil production -- the biggest disruption to world crude supplies ever.

It reduced world crude-oil production by 5 percent, sending prices soaring by as much as 19 percent after the incidents.

Relations between Washington and Tehran have soured since Trump withdrew from the Iranian nuclear deal last year and reimposed sanctions over the country's nuclear and ballistic-missile programs.

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on September 17 ruled out negotiations with the United States, saying the U.S. policy of "maximum pressure" on Iran was "worthless," according to his official website.

Last week, the White House floated the possibility of a meeting between Trump and President Hassan Rohani.

With reporting by Reuters, CNN, and AFP