U.S. official says drone and missile attack on Saudi Arabia was launched from Iran

Saudi attack had Iranian projectiles: sources

Last Updated Sep 17, 2019 11:50 AM EDT

The United States has identified the exact locations in Iran from which a combination of more than 20 drones and cruise missiles were launched against Saudi oil facilities over the weekend, a senior U.S. official told CBS News national security correspondent David Martin on Tuesday. The official said the locations are in southern Iran, at the northern end of the Persian Gulf.  

Saudi Arabia's air defenses have been aimed south for months, to protect against missile attacks launched by Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen, so they were useless against the missiles and drones coming in from the north, the official told Martin.

One of the missiles flew through Kuwait's airspace and the U.S. is working with a number of other countries to analyze data on the attack, which could help make the case against Iran.  

A U.S. team has been on the ground at the oil facilities and identified the specific types of drones and cruise missiles fired, Martin reported. The wreckage was moved to a facility outside the Saudi capital of Riyadh, where it will be used to make what one U.S. official called, "a very compelling forensic case" that Iran launched "a complex and coordinated attack" on Saudi Arabia.

In addition to the wreckage, the forensic case will include radar tracks reconstructed after the fact that show the cruise missiles and drones coming out of Iran.

U.S. officials have already blamed Iran for the attack, but President Trump has appeared this week to lower expectations of a U.S. military response. On Monday night, one day after tweeting that the U.S. was "locked and loaded" in response to the attack on Saudi Arabia, the president told supporters in New Mexico not to panic about oil supplies.

Trump says Iran is likely behind attack on Saudi oil plant

"Today, we got a lot of oil," Mr. Trump said at his rally. "We got a lot of gas."  

"A few years ago, if we had a problem like you saw two days ago in the Middle East, we would've been in a panic," the president added. "Although not if I were your president — we never panic."

Earlier in the day, Mr. Trump stopped short of blaming Iran for the attacks on two Saudi oil plants, but he said the country was likely responsible.

"We want to find definitively who did this," he said. "It certainly would look to most like it was Iran."

The president's Secretaries of State, Defense and Energy have all blamed Tehran in tweets. A Saudi Arabian military spokesman said the weapons were Iranian, but was unclear on where the attack originated.

All options appear to be on the table when it comes to Mr. Trump's response. At one point, the president practiced restraint, claiming, "I don't want war with anybody, I'm somebody who would like not to have war." But he also kept open the possibility of U.S. military action, and even suggested a lethal retaliatory strike would be a proportionate response.

Former CIA acting director Michael Morell said the U.S. may have little choice. "It's not only Iran that's under pressure here, they can put pressure back on us," he said. "We have to deter them."

On Capitol Hill, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has requested a briefing for all House members on the attack on the Saudi facilities, and Democrats are urging caution on any next steps.

"I don't think we need to be the protector of Saudi Arabia," said Senator Tim Kaine, a Democrat from Virginia.

Mr. Trump has also announced that a team led by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will head to Saudi Arabia, and said the U.S. is talking to other countries in the region as he decides how to respond. United Nations inspectors have also traveled to Saudi Arabia to investigate, while the U.S. works on declassifying information to share publicly. 

Iran continues to deny any involvement, and the nation's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has ruled out talks with the U.S. at any level.