Middle Easterner leaders assemble in Saudi Arabia on Thursday for crisis summits that Riyadh expectations will deliver a strong message to Iran that local forces will shield their interests against any danger following assaults on Gulf oil resources this month.
Saudi and the United Arab Emirates, which have lobbied Washington to contain their foe Iran, have said they want to avoid war after drone strikes on oil pumping stations in the kingdom and the sabotage of oil tankers off the UAE coast.
Riyadh accused Tehran of ordering the drone strikes, which were claimed by Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthi group. A top U.S. security official said Iranian mines were “almost certainly” used in the tanker operation. Tehran denies any involvement.
Saudi Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Assaf told a get-together of his counterparts in Jeddah in front of the summits that the assaults must be tended to with “strength and firmness”.
“While summit leaders are likely to discuss how best to avoid a war, King Salman is equally determined to defend Saudi and Arab interests amid increasing tensions between the U.S. and Iran,” Prince Turki al-Faisal, former Saudi intelligence chief and envoy, wrote in an opinion piece published by Al Arabiya.
He said the meetings of Sunni Muslim Gulf leaders and Arab leaders at midnight in Mecca would discuss Shi’ite Iran’s “interference” in Arab affairs.
Tensions have risen between the United States and Iran after Washington quit a multinational nuclear deal with Iran, re-imposed sanctions and boosted its military presence in the Gulf.
U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton said on Wednesday that the attack near a UAE bunkering hub was connected to the strike on pumping stations on the kingdom’s East-West pipeline — both alternative oil shipping routes to the Strait of Hormuz — and a rocket attack on Baghdad’s Green Zone.
“There is no doubt in anybody’s mind in Washington who is responsible for this and I think it’s important that the leadership in Iran know that we know,” Bolton said of the operation against four vessels, including two Saudi oil tankers.
He said the United States was trying to take a “prudent and responsible” approach but warned Tehran against any new attacks.
An Iranian official dismissed Bolton’s remarks as “a ludicrous claim”. The Islamic Republic has said it would defend itself against any military or economic aggression.