The Pentagon is holding off on assigning blame to Iran for an attack on Saudi oil refineries because “we’re not going to get ahead” of the Saudi’s assessment, the Pentagon said Thursday.
Still, the New York Times is reporting that President Donald Trump’s national security aides were scheduled to meet Thursday to “refine a list of potential targets to strike in Iran.”
In a Pentagon meeting with reporters, Jonathan Rath Hoffman, assistant to the secretary of defense of defense for public affairs, said the U.S. would defer to Saudi Arabia and allow them to announce their conclusion for who was behind the attack.
“Our position on this has been we’re going to work through with the Saudis as they make their assessment of what took place,” Hoffman told reporters Thursday. “With regard to that, we’re going to let them put out the information as they go through the assessment. We’re going to be with them working through that.”
The comments come after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo accused Iran on Wednesday of being responsible for the attack, which he characterized as an “act of war.” The comments were made to reporters as he traveled to Saudi Arabia.
Although the Pentagon said that early indications suggest Iran was behind the incident, Hoffman avoided directly faulting Iran as Pompeo did.
“Indications are that this is in some way the Iranians are responsible for this," Hoffman said. “But we’re going to allow the Saudis to make their own conclusion and present that to the public and the international community.”
“We have a high-level of confidence that we will be able to accurately and appropriately attribute the responsible parties for this, but we’re going to continue to work with the Saudis to reach that point,” Hoffman said.
A decision regarding military action has yet to be made regarding the situation in Iran, and no action will be taken until a final assessment concludes, Hoffman said. In the meantime, the Pentagon is providing Trump multiple options, he said.
“That is what we are doing. We are providing him with options, and then he makes the determination of what to do,” Hoffman said.
Trump signaled military action was a possibility when he tweeted Sunday that the U.S. was “locked and loaded” as it awaited confirmation that Iran was the “culprit.” He said Monday that he wasn’t trying to instigate a war with Iran, but cautioned that the U.S. has the “strongest military in the world.”
The aerial attack on Saudi oil refineries occurred on Saturday, wreaking havoc upon the facility’s oil production. Iran has denied that it was responsible for the attack, and Iran’s defense minister Brig. Gen. Amir Hatami said Wednesday that such accusations were “wholly, seriously and firmly rejected,” according to the Islamic Republic News Agency.
But Saudi military spokesman Col. Turki al-Malki said during a news conference Wednesday that the attack was “unquestionably sponsored by Iran,” the Associated Press reports.
Iran’s foreign minister, Javad Zarif, recently told CNN that a U.S. strike on Iran would trigger an “all out war.”
Tensions have escalated with Iran during the Trump administration, who withdrew from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal that is formally the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. The deal put limits on Iran's nuclear program, and lifted crippling sanctions.
However, severe sanctions were reimposed following the Trump administration’s withdrawal from the agreement, and Iran is about to get hit with even more.
Trump announced Wednesday Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin has been directed to “substantially increase” sanctions against Tehran. However, the president did not elaborate