Riyadh says Iranian weapons used in attacks: Update

Updates with comments by US secretary of state Mike Pompeo

Iranian-made drones and cruise missiles were used in the attacks on Saudi Arabia's Abqaiq crude processing plant and Khurais oil field over the weekend, according to Saudi defence ministry spokesman Turki al-Maliki.

A total of seven cruise missiles were used in the attack on Khurais — four of them hit facilities at the field and three fell short — and 18 drones were fired at Abqaiq, al-Maliki said. He used a press conference today to display what the Saudis claim are two of the missiles that fell short, as well as parts from the drones. Analysis of the evidence shows that the weapons used in both attacks were unquestionably of Iranian origin, al-Maliki said.

Yemen's Houthi rebels have claimed responsibility. But the attacks could not have been launched from Yemen, according to al-Maliki. He displayed footage showing some of the drones homing in on Abqaiq, adding that they were flying towards the plant from a northerly direction. Yemen is to the southwest of Saudi Arabia, while Abqaiq is in the northeast of the country. Khurais is also northeast of Saudi Arabia's border with Yemen. And both Abqaiq and Khurais are outside the range of any missiles that Yemen's Houthi rebels have, according to al-Maliki.

"This attack did not come from Yemen, despite Iran's great efforts to make it seem as though the attack had originated from Yemen," he said. Saudi Arabia considers the incident as an attack on the global economy and calls on the international community to "recognise Iran's malicious practices", he said.

Investigations are under way to determine the exact launching location of the weapons and who launched them. That information will be announced once it is available, al-Maliki said.

The US has sent forensics experts to assist the Saudi inquiry into the incidents. But Washington is already offering conclusions.

"It did not come from the Houthis," US secretary of state Mike Pompeo told reporters today ahead of his meeting in Jeddah with Saudi crown prince Mohammad bin Salman. But even if the attacks originated in Yemen, Iran would have still been held responsible for supplying the weapons used in the "act of war," Pompeo said.

The US is basing its initial conclusions on intelligence assessments, rather than direct evidence of the attacks. The US does not have "an unblinking eye" over the Middle East, US Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman, general Joseph Dunford, said yesterday. "We would not necessarily see everything that goes on in the region."

The US is offering two main arguments to back its case that Iran carried out the attacks. "The intelligence community has high confidence that these were not weapons that would have been in the possession of the Houthis," Pompeo said.

The US intelligence analysts also cite "the flight patterns that had to have taken place given the impact and what you can see when you see the pictures," Pompeo said, echoing comments made by the Saudi defence ministry.

"We have seen no evidence that it came from Iraq. It could well have traveled over Kuwait. We have not seen that either," Pompeo said.

Dunford stopped short of saying where he thought the attacks might have originated from, but said "the most likely threat is either Iran or Iranian-backed proxies."

Although the US military is "planning options for the president and other civilian leaders" to respond to the Saudi attacks, Dunford stressed that a military response is only one option. Economic, political and diplomatic responses are also available, he said.