ISLAMABAD - Pakistan is active to defuse tension between the United States and Iran after Washington blamed Tehran for an attack on a Saudi oil facility and threatened to give a strong response.

The weekend drone attack cut into global energy supplies and halved the kingdom’s oil production, threatening to fuel a regional crisis. Yemen’s Houthi rebels took responsibility for the attacks, and Iran denied the US allegations.

But the US released new ‘evidence’ to back up its claims that Iran was directly responsible for the attacks and a US official said all options, including a military response, were on the table.

President Donald Trump said the US had reason to believe it knew who was behind the attack and assured his Twitter followers that “we are ... locked and loaded” depending on verification and were waiting to hear from the Saudis as to who they believe was behind the attack and “under what terms we would proceed!”

Calling US claims “maximum lies,” a commander in Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard reiterated its forces could strike US military bases across the Mideast with their arsenal of ballistic missiles.

Earlier, White House senior counselor Kellyanne Conway said US President Donald Trump has “many options on the table” when it comes to responding to what his administration had described as Iran’s role in a crippling strike on Saudi Arabia’s oil production this weekend.

But she did leave open the door to a potential meeting between Trump and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani next week in New York - something that was a possibility before the attack in Saudi Arabia.

“The President will always consider his options,” Conway said when asked if Trump would still sit down with Rouhani under current circumstances.

“We’ve never committed to that meeting at the United Nations General Assembly. The President’s just said he’s looking at it. When you attack Saudi Arabia, you’re not helping your case much,” she added.

Pakistan’s peace efforts

Senior government officials told The Nation that Islamabad was playing a role to defuse the tension and resolve the dispute peacefully.

“We (Pakistan) believe war will not serve any purpose in the region. Any attack on Iran will push the region into further chaos,” said one official who remains in contact with Washington on behalf of the government.

Another official said the US agrees with Pakistan’s point of view but was ‘annoyed’ over Iran’s ‘attitude.’ “The US doubts Iran’s seriousness for peace. We (Pakistan) are doing our bit for peaceful resolution of the issue,” he added.

Iran, which shares a long border with Pakistan, had supported Islamabad on the Kashmir issue when India merged the disputed territory in its union last month.

Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said Pakistan was grateful to Iran for coming up with a strong stance in support of the oppressed Kashmiri people.

Last week, Foreign Office spokesperson Dr Mohammed Faisal said all parties must work towards easing the tension in the region. He said Pakistan was watching the developments in the region very closely.

Yesterday, Gas companies of Pakistan and Iran signed extended Iran-Pakistan gas line agreement after mutual consent. The top officials of National Iranian Oil Company and Pakistan’ Inter-State Gas System signed the amended IP gas deal under which Pakistan will build the said pipeline by August 26, 2024, in its territory.

After the agreement to extend the IP-GSPA, Iran has withdrawn legal notice it served on Pakistan on moving the arbitration court.

Under the IP gas project, Pakistan was to import gas of 750mmcfd which was to increase up to 1,000mmcfd and an additional quantity of 250mmcfd was to be used in Gwadar.

Since Pakistan remained unable to lay down 781 kilometres pipeline under its territory from Iranian border touching Gwadar and reaching up to Nawabshah because of failure to arrange the required financing in the wake of US sanctions, Iran had served legal notice on Pakistan in February 2019 for failure in implementing the gas line project and getting Iranian gas from January 1, 2015. The agreement was earlier signed in 2009 for 25 years.



More on drone attack matter

Global energy prices spiked Monday by a percentage unseen since the 1991 Gulf War after the attack on key Saudi oil facilities caused the worst disruption to world supplies on record, further fuelling heightened tensions between Iran and the US.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had pinned the blame on Iran for the attack at the Saudi oil field in a pair of tweets, but Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Seyyed Abbas Mousavi rejected that accusation.

“Such blind accusations and inappropriate comments in a diplomatic context are incomprehensible and meaningless,” he said, adding: “Even hostility needs a certain degree of credibility and reasonable frameworks, US officials have also violated these basic principles.”

Saudi Arabia has been leading a military campaign to quash the Houthi rebels in Yemen since March 2015. The conflict is widely seen as a proxy war between the Saudis and Iran, which has been backing the Houthis.

But hours before Trump’s tweet, senior US officials said satellite imagery and other intelligence showed the strike was inconsistent with one launched from Yemen.

The US government produced satellite photos showing what officials said were at least 19 points of impact at two Saudi energy facilities, including damage at the heart of the kingdom’s crucial oil processing plant at Abqaiq. Officials said the photos show impacts consistent with the attack coming from the direction of Iran or Iraq, rather than from Yemen to the south.

Iraq denied Sunday that its territory was used for an attack on the Kingdom and US officials said a strike from there would be a violation of Iraq’s sovereignty.

Iran rejected the US ‘evidence’, with a government spokesman saying now there was “absolutely no chance” of a hoped-for meeting between Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and President Donald Trump at the UN General Assembly next week.