Saudis blame Iran for drone attack amid calls for U.S. strikes


File image of U.S. president Donald Trump with Saudi Arabia crown prince Mohammed bin Salman in Washington.

"I'm sure that Iran will want to talk soon", the president tweeted.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo echoed that sentiment, saying in Sochi, Russia: 'We fundamentally do not seek a war with Iran'.

The next logical step - in this newspaper's view - should be surgical strikes. He accused the US and regional nations of airing "false allegations" about Iran.

Iran "must be hit hard" said Arab News in an editorial published yesterday urging the USA to not allow Iran's actions "go unpunished".

The Arab News argued the USA had "set a precedent" with strikes against Syria's Bashar al Assad's regime in 2017 following the horror of sarin gas strikes in Khan Sheikhoun.

Ali Shihabi, who runs the Saudi-leaning Arabia Foundation in Washington, said there's a sense that if the Iranians can get away with targeting Saudi oil infrastructure, then "the whole security infrastructure in the Gulf will be called into question and security premiums on oil will rise".

"The time has come for Iran not only to curb its nuclear weapon ambitions - again in the world's interest - but also for the world to ensure that they do not have the means to support their terror networks across the region".

Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman, who also is defence minister and controls major levers of power in the Sunni kingdom, has not commented publicly on this week's incidents. In a Saudi TV interview in 2017, he said the kingdom knows it is a main target of Shiite Iran and there is no room for dialogue with Tehran.

A top Emirati diplomat said late Wednesday the Saudi-led coalition fighting the Houthis in Yemen would "retaliate hard" for attacks on civilian targets, without elaborating.

However, he also said the UAE is "very committed to de-escalation" after the alleged sabotage of oil tankers off the country's coast on Sunday.

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At the root of the recent spike in Persian Gulf tensions appears to be Trump's decision a year ago to pull the USA from Iran's nuclear deal with world powers, embarking on a maximalist sanctions campaign against Tehran to cripple the country's economy.

Yemen's Huthi rebels had claimed responsibility Tuesday for twin drone strikes on the pipeline from the oil-rich Eastern Province to the Red Sea coast.

According to the Houthi-owned Almasirah news outlet, Thursday's air strikes on Sanaa killed six people, including four children, and wounded 52 others.

Fawaz Ahmed, a middle-aged broker, told The Associated Press he saw the three bodies being retrieved from the rubble - a father, his child and his wife, all buried together.

The residents say the airstrikes started early on Thursday, with coalition jets bombing military sites belonging to the rebel Houthis who have been at war with the coalition since 2015.

There was far more clarity about Tuesday's attack on the Saudi East-West pipeline. The U.K. also raised the threat level for its armed forces and diplomats in Iraq because of an increased security risk from Iran, two people familiar with the matter said.

Iran's ambassador to the United Nations says the Islamic Republic is not interested in escalating regional tensions but has the "right to defend ourselves". Iraq is home to powerful pro-Iranian militias, while also hosting more than 5,000 U.S. troops.

Qatar hosts the forward headquarters of the USA military's Central Command at its vast Al-Udeid Air Base.

On a visit to Tokyo, Mohammad Zarif defended Iran's right to respond to the US pullout from the nuclear deal a year ago and the imposition of sanctions.

A senior British officer in the US -backed coalition fighting ISIS appeared to push back against the USA claims, telling reporters earlier in the week that there had been no increased threat from Iranian-backed forces in Iraq and Syria. Maj. Gen. Chris Ghika's comments exposed worldwide skepticism over the American military buildup. "We have exercised maximum restraints", he said.

Iran recently threatened to resume higher enrichment in 60 days if no new nuclear deal is in place, beyond the level permitted by the current one between Tehran and world powers.