Pompeo says Saudi oil plant attack was "state-on-state act of war" by Iran

Pompeo: Attack on Saudi oil plant was "act of war" by Iran

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo continued on Sunday to accuse Iran of committing a "state-on-state act of war," saying the Trump administration has irrefutable evidence that shows an attack last week on oil facilities in Saudi Arabia was organized and directed by the government in Tehran.

"This was Iran true and true, and the United States will respond in a way that reflects that act of war by this Iranian revolutionary regime," Pompeo said on "Face the Nation" from New York, where he's attending this week's United Nations General Assembly. "The U.N.'s primary charter is to protect peace around the world. This was a state on state act of war."

The decades-long strained relationship between Tehran and Washington has worsened under President Trump, who last year withdrew the U.S. from the landmark 2015 nuclear accord. But tensions have escalated even more in recent days after the U.S. blamed Iran for a series of early morning attacks on oil processing facilities in eastern Saudi Arabia that rattled global energy markets. 

On Friday, Mr. Trump ordered the Pentagon to deploy hundreds of additional troops, as well as missile systems, to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, another key American ally in the region. The administration said the move was in response to the oil plant attacks, and the Pentagon called it "defensive in nature." 

Iran, Saudi Arabia's regional nemesis, has forcefully denied involvement with the attacks, with foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif pointing to the claim of responsibility made last week by the Houthis, an Iranian-backed rebel group in Yemen fighting the fragile government there and a Saudi-led coalition supporting it.

"Well, it is difficult for the United States to explain why its state of the art equipment was not able to intercept these weapons. But the fact of the matter is that the Houthis have accepted responsibility," Zarif said on "Face the Nation."

But Pompeo strongly pushed back against that assertion, saying there is "ample evidence" that his Iranian counterpart is lying. He said the Houthis don't have the capabilities to launch such a "sophisticated attack."

"These weapons systems had ranges that could not have come from the Houthis. It is crazy for anyone to assert that they did," he added. "I mean, it is literally nuts on its face to make an assertion that this was an attack by the Houthis." 

The secretary of state said the U.S. is still committed to finding a diplomatic solution to ease the simmering tensions with Iran and stabilizing in the region, which has been the setting of a bitter proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran for years. 

But Pompeo denied that defensive military deployments and more economic sanctions are the only tools the administration is willing to employ to deter Iran.

"Oh, goodness, no," he said. 

  • Camilo Montoya-Galvez
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    Camilo Montoya-Galvez is the immigration reporter at CBS News. Based in Washington, he covers immigration policy and politics. Twitter: @camiloreports