Pentagon gives Saudi Arabia more classified data to help with attack probe

Pentagon gives Saudi Arabia more classified data to help with attack probe

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Defense Secretary Mark Esper, center, greets Bahrain Prince Salman bin Hamad Al-Khalifa Tuesday for meetings at the Pentagon. (Tom Squitieri/TMN)

WASHINGTON — The Pentagon began sharing information with Saudi Arabia about the nature of the drone and missile attack that surgically destroyed much of its largest oil refinery as Washington and others grappled with a response to Iran, believed to be the perpetrator.

“Iran continues to violate international norms,” Defense Secretary Mark Esper said Tuesday. Meeting with the Crown Prince of Bahrain, Esper said the goal of the Tuesday meeting, as well as others, is to “deter further provocative actions by Iran.”

The Pentagon has limited its intelligence-sharing with Saudi Arabia to military matters in Yemen, where Saudi Arabia is leading a coalition that is one side of a civil war. According to U.N. agencies, that conflict has produced one of the worst humanitarian crisis in the world.

There has been bipartisan concern about a closer Pentagon relationship with Saudi Arabia, which has significant financial dealings with the Trump Organization.

Bahrain Prince Salman bin Hamad Al-Khalifa, who met with Esper Tuesday, did not mention Iran by name in his opening remarks. He did note that the meeting “couldn’t have come at a more opportune time.”

He referred to the attack as “matters (that) are of great concern for all of us in the world”

The Saturday attack incapacitated more than half of Saudi Arabia’s oil exporting capability, which was about 5% of the world market.

Bahrain is the home port to the U.S. 5th fleet. It has joined Australia and the United Kingdom as participants in a U.S.-effort to police the Persian Gulf and escort commercial vessels.

Drones and cruise missiles were used in the attack, Pentagon officials said Tuesday. Pentagon officials speaking on background said there is a good chance investigators will be able to trace the point of origin and possible flight data from recovered circuit boards and wreckage pieces.

Officials from France and Germany said Tuesday that there is no proof yet as to the origin of the missiles and drones or their launch points, according to news reports.

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