Iran: No Talk with USA at Any Level

Wednesday, 18 Sep, 2019

Oil plunged more than six per cent in London after Reuters reported Saudi Arabia is close to restoring 70 per cent of the oil production lost after this weekend's attack.

Earlier this month, US officials raised the prospect of direct talks between US President Donald Trump and his Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly scheduled for next week.

Iran has rejected USA charges it was behind the strikes on Saturday that damaged the world's biggest crude-processing plant and triggered the largest jump in crude prices in decades.

The price of oil saw a massive price spike Monday following drone strikes on a Saudi oil facility over the weekend that has shut off more than half of the kingdom's daily exports, or about 5% of the world's crude production.

USA officials have said that satellite imagery shows nearly 20 points of impact consistent with the attack having come from the north - the direction of Iran or Iraq - rather than from Yemen on Saudi Arabia's southern border. We're dealing with the crown prince and other of your neighbors.

Trump has said his goal is to force Iran to negotiate a tougher agreement and has left open the possibility of talks with Rouhani at an upcoming United Nations meeting.

For Justin Bronk, the author of a report on drone use by the Houthis and others in the Middle East for the Royal United Services Institute, a UK military think-tank, the size of some of the blast holes on supplied photos of the smoldering plants may suggest cruise missile attacks, which would indicate Iranian involvement. They have also exposed the vulnerability of the pumping heart of Saudi Arabia's oil industry.

Fourteen months before voters will decide on Trump's reelection, he is increasingly mindful of his 2016 campaign promises, including his pledge to bring American troops home after almost two decades of continuous war.

Trump has said his goal is to force Iran to negotiate a tougher agreement and has left open the possibility of talks with Rouhani at an upcoming United Nations meeting.

"I'm not looking to get into new conflict, but sometimes you have to", he said.

"At a minimum, we should want to know more information before doing anything".

Aides say he's taking a prudent pause. They say the systems - albeit sophisticated - are created to defend against traditional-style attacks - and not asymmetrical ones from the air by drones.

The crisis comes amid upheaval in Trump's national security team.

The White House wants tighter restrictions on Iran's nuclear program as well as restrictions on the country's ballistic missile development and regional influence.

Relations between the United States and Iran have deteriorated since Trump pulled out of the Iran nuclear accord past year and reimposed sanctions over Tehran's nuclear and ballistic programs.

For months, Iranian officials have issued veiled threats, saying that if Tehran is blocked from exporting oil, other countries will not be able to do so either. The government's statements were carried in state-run media following a weekly Cabinet meeting that was overseen by King Salman, who was quoted saying Saudi Arabia is capable of defending against such "cowardly attacks".

However, the president told reporters in the Oval Office that the United States "is prepared" if the attacks warrant a response. Therefore, he said, no steps were being taken to beef up the US military presence in the Gulf region, which includes air defence forces and support troops at Prince Sultan Air Base south of the Saudi capital of Riyadh. The US already has the USS Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier battle group in the area, as well as fighter jets, bombers, reconnaissance aircraft and air defenses.

The Iranian officials, including President Hassan Rouhani and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, have reiterated with a united voice that Iran will not hold talks with the USA, either bilaterally or multilaterally, the Leader emphasized. "Neither in NY nor anywhere" else.

Referring to the recent remarks by a USA official who said "we should negotiate with Iran, and we should say so and so, and Iran must agree", the leader of the Islamic Revolution held: For such negotiations, they should go to those who act as their "milking cows".

The US military, he said, was working with its partners to "address this unprecedented attack and defend the global rules-based order that is being undermined by Iran".

Trump also faces a skeptical Congress. But clearly there has to be a response from the West or else Iran will continue to run roughshod over everybody else.

Pence met behind closed doors on Capitol Hill with Senate Republicans, and lawmakers were reviewing classified intelligence about the attack. Wherever the attacks were launched, however, they believe Iran is to blame.

Sen. Ron Johnson, a Wisconsin Republican, said he was "100 per cent convinced" it was Iran.

"I think you won't be surprised to see who did it", he told reporters.

Khamenei said Washington should return to the 2015 Iranian nuclear deal that it abandoned in 2018, if the USA wants any talk.