WASHINGTON — The Pentagon will wait until Saudi Arabia formally blames Iran for the weekend missile and drone attack that damaged major oil processing facilities before inaugurating any retaliation, officials told reporters Thursday.
As the Pentagon pondered, Iran postured: Its officials warned Thursday of all-out war if the U.S. attacks, according to news reports.
“As of this time all indications are that Iran is in some way responsible,” Jonathan Hoffman, the chief Pentagon spokesperson, told reporters Thursday.
Hoffman said the U.S. is being “deliberative” and said on several occasions that the Pentagon and the U.S. are “not going to get ahead of the Saudi investigation in their assessment of this.”
Saudi Arabia has focused most of its air defenses on threats from the south, in the direction of Houthi rebels who often launch shorter-range missile and drone attacks on Saudi territory, according to Pentagon officials.
Hoffman said the attack was sophisticated and coordinated, succeeding in disrupting the global financial market. “Regardless of whether this was a proxy or direct attack, this has been a dramatic escalation of what we’ve seen in the past,” Hoffman said.
Col. Patrick Ryder, spokesperson for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said a U.S. forensics team remains in Saudi Arabia and the process to determine the culprit “will likely go on for some time.”
He noted how the Pentagon had increased its force posture in the region during May based on threats from Iran.
“In the current situation in regards to this particular incident, we’re constantly assessing but we do not have any announcements to make in terms of any force adjustment or posture,” Ryder told reporters.
He passed on questions as to why the costly Saudi air defense dramatically failed to thwart the attack. “I’m not going to speak to the details of Saudi Arabia’s air defense system other than to say it’s being looked at and taken seriously,” Ryder said.
According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, Saudi Arabia topped the list of the world’s arms importers from 2014 to 2018. During those years Riyadh purchased 22% of the United States’ global arms sales, including F-15 fighter aircraft, Apache attack helicopters and the Patriot air defense systems, the Institute said.
Speaking about Afghanistan just weeks after a possible peace plan became stalled and attacks by the Taliban have surged, Ryder said the Pentagon “has not been ordered to draw down forces” in that nation.
“Our mission remains the same.”