EU Members Hold Off on Blaming Iran For Saudi Oil Attacks

James Carstensen | September 18, 2019 | 8:02pm EDT
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E.U. foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini and Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif. (UN Photo)

Berlin ( – Despite U.S. calls for global condemnation of Iran following last Saturday’s drone and missile attacks on Saudi oil infrastructure, three key European governments have yet to back U.S. and Saudi claims of Iranian responsibility.

Following a phone conversation between German Chancellor Angela Merkel and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson about the attacks, the British government said in a statement they agreed on the need to first decide on a “collective response” – but without naming a perpetrator.

“On the issue of Iran, they reaffirmed their commitment to a common approach and the importance of avoiding the further escalation of tensions in the region,” the statement said.

Germany earlier condemned the attack, but merely noted that “the Houthis have claimed responsibility,” in reference to the Iran-backed Shi’ite militia in Yemen.

French President Emmanuel Macron condemned the attacks in a statement Tuesday but also avoided laying blame, saying instead the France would first send experts to investigate the attacks.

The European Union’s foreign affairs office has been silent on the issue since issuing an intial brief statement one day after the attacks.

That statement said it was “important to clearly establish the facts and determine responsibility for this deplorable attack.”

“At a time when tensions in the region are running high, this attack undermines ongoing work at de-escalation and dialogue,” it added.

Germany’s parliament on Tuesday extended an arms export freeze on Saudi Arabia by six months, with Merkel saying she saw “no conditions, at the moment, for a changed stance,” in reference to growing tensions in the region.

The attacks on major Saudi oil production facilities were the latest – and most costly – in a series of incidents in the region, including drone shoot downs and attacks on oil tankers near the Strait of Hormuz, which the U.S. blames on Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).

U.S. threats to sanction anyone buying oil from Iran, following President Trump’s withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear accord last year has also added to regional tensions. The E.U. has been trying to salvage the deal, with little success.

Despite the Houthis claiming responsibility for the latest attack, the U.S. and Saudi Arabia blame Iran.

The Saudi military on Wednesday claimed that remnants it had recovered came from Iranian Delta Wing drones and “Ya Ali” cruise missiles, which it said showed the attack was “unquestionably sponsored by Iran.”

Spokesman Col. Turki al-Maliki told a news conference the Houthis were merely “covering up” for Iran by claiming responsibility.

Meanwhile Trump said in a tweet Wednesday that he has directed Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin “to substantially increase” sanctions on Iran, in response to the attacks.

Iran has denied the accusations, accusing Saudi Arabia and the U.S. of inciting conflict in the region.

“The [Saudi military’s] press conference proved that Saudi Arabia knows nothing about where the missiles and drones were made or launched from and failed to explain why the country’s defense system failed to intercept them,” Hesameddin Ashena, an advisor to President Hassan Rouhani, said on Twitter.

“The US needs to scapegoat Iran for the military assault on SA,” Ashena added in another tweet. “To acknowledge that the Yemenis mounted such an attack would be an admission of American military inadequacy – for which the Saudis have paid an arm and a leg.”

A Saudi-led coalition has been fighting a bloody war against the Houthis in Yemen over the last four years, in support of the war-wracked country’s internationally-recognized government. With atrocities reported on both sides, the conflict has been described by the U.N. as the world’s worst humanitarian disaster, with an estimated 3.3 million people displaced and lacking food or water.

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