The Slatest

White House Doesn’t Rule Out Meeting Between Trump, Iranian Leader After Saudi Attack

A picture taken on September 15, 2019 shows an Aramco oil facility near al-Khurj area, just south of the Saudi capital Riyadh.
A picture taken on September 15, 2019 shows an Aramco oil facility near al-Khurj area, just south of the Saudi capital Riyadh. FAYEZ NURELDINE/Getty Images

President Donald Trump is still considering the possibility of meeting with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani even though his administration has accused Tehran of orchestrating the attacks on key oil infrastructure in Saudi Arabia. Although the attacks “did not help” the prospects for a meeting, that doesn’t mean it is off the table, White House adviser Kellyanne Conway said on Fox News Sunday. “Well, the president will always consider his options. And he’s never—we’ve never committed to that meeting at the United Nations General Assembly,” she said. “The president just said he’s looking at it.”

During the interview, Conway echoed allegations that had been previously made by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who said Iran was responsible for the attacks. Writing on Twitter Saturday afternoon, Pompeo said “Iran has now launched an unprecedented attack on the world’s energy supply.” The Iran-aligned Houthi rebel group has claimed responsibility for the attack.

A senior U.S. official spoke to reporters Sunday to provide more evidence to support their claim that Iran was behind the attack that knocked 5 percent of the global supply of crude oil offline. Saudi officials allegedly claimed there were signs that cruise missiles were used in the attack, which would contradict the claim by the Houthis that the attack was fully carried out by drones. Satellite imagery shows there were at least 19 points of impact and the photos suggest the attacks came from the direction of Iran, and not Yemen. “There’s no doubt that Iran is responsible for this. No matter how you slice it, there’s no escaping it. There’s no other candidate,” the unnamed official said.

Iran roundly dismissed those allegations Sunday and also took the opportunity to remind the United States that it has military assets in the region within the range of its missiles. Having failed at ‘max pressure’, @SecPompeo’s turning to ‘max deceit’,” Iran’s foreign minister, JAvad Zarif wrote on Twitter. The spokesman for the Iranian foreign ministry, Abbas Mousavi, characterized Pompeo’s words as “blind and futile comments.”

Some analysts believe Iran may have played a role in planning the attack against Saudi oil interests as a way to improve its position before any talks with the United States. “The main point for Iran, in my opinion, is not necessarily to derail a meeting between Trump and Rouhani but to increase its leverage ahead of it,” said Michael Horowitz, the head of intelligence at Le Beck International.

Saudi Arabia is optimistic it can restore about a third of the 5.7 million barrels of production it lost from the attack by the end of the day Monday. Some are more optimistic and say Aramco could restore as much as half of its production early in the week. But recovering all the lost output could take weeks. Analysts said oil prices could rise as much as $10 per barrel.