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Saudi oil facilities attacked, U.S. sees threat in Iraq from Iran-back
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Saudi oil facilities attacked, U.S. sees threat in Iraq from Iran-backed forces

RIYADH/DUBAI, May 15 ------ Saudi Arabia said armed drones struck two of its oil pumping stations on Tuesday, two days after the sabotage of oil tankers near the United Arab Emirates, and the U.S. military said it was braced for “possibly imminent threats to U.S. forces in Iraq” from Iran-backed forces. The attacks took place against a backdrop of U.S.-Iranian tension following Washington’s decision this month to try to cut Iran’s oil exports to zero and to beef up its military presence in the Gulf in response to what it said were Iranian threats.

Tuesday’s attacks on the pumping stations more than 200 miles (320 km) west of Riyadh and Sunday’s on four tankers off Fujairah emirate have raised concerns that the United States and Iran might inching toward military conflict. However, U.S. President Donald Trump denied a New York Times report that U.S. officials were discussing a military plan to send up to 120,000 troops to the Middle East to counter any attack or nuclear weapons acceleration by Iran.

“It’s fake news, OK? Now, would I do that? Absolutely. But we have not planned for that. Hopefully we’re not going to have to plan for that. And if we did that, we’d send a hell of a lot more troops than that,” Trump told reporters.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said there would not be war with the United States despite mounting tensions over Iranian nuclear capabilities, its missile program and its support for proxies in Yemen, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. “There won’t be any war. The Iranian nation has chosen the path of resistance,” he said in comments carried by Iran’s state TV. He repeated that Tehran would not negotiate with Washington over Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with major powers.

The U.S. military cited possible imminent threats to its troops in Iraq and said they were now on high alert. The U.S. was responding to comments from a British deputy commander of the U.S.-led coalition fighting Islamic State remnants in Iraq and Syria who said there had been no increase in the threat from Iran-backed militia. The comments “run counter to the identified credible threats available to intelligence from U.S. and allies regarding Iranian backed forces in the region,” said Navy Captain Bill Urban, a spokesman at the U.S. military’s Central Command.

Trump withdrew the United States from the Iran nuclear deal a year ago and has sharply increased economic sanctions on Iran. Under the accord negotiated by Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama, Iran agreed to curb its uranium enrichment capacity, a potential pathway to a nuclear bomb, in return for sanctions relief.

Source: reuters.com