By Richard Pérez-Peña, David D. Kirkpatrick and Michael Crowley
US President Donald Trump said Monday that Iran appeared to have been responsible for the weekend attack on Saudi Arabian oil facilities. But he also said he would “like to avoid” a military conflict with Tehran, emphasized his interest in diplomacy and played down the attack’s jolt to the global oil market.
Asked at the White House whether Iran was behind the strikes on Saturday that crippled much of Saudi Arabia’s oil output, Trump said, “It’s looking that way.” But he stopped short of a definitive confirmation, adding, “That’s being checked out right now.”
The attack was the most destructive blow to Saudi Arabia since it began waging war in Yemen more than four years ago. The damage inside Saudi Arabia helped drive world oil prices up by 10% on Monday, the fastest rise in more than a decade.
Trump warned that the United States has fearsome military capabilities and is prepared for war if necessary. “With all that being said, we’d certainly like to avoid it,” he said. “I know they want to make a deal,” he said of Iranian officials, whom he has been trying to draw into talks over their nuclear program and other issues. “At some point it will work out.”
Trump’s comments represented a notable shift in tone from the day before, when he wrote on Twitter that the United States was “locked and loaded,” ready to take action based on Saudi Arabia’s needs.
On Monday, he told reporters he had not “promised” to protect the Saudis. Rather, Trump said, he will “sit down with the Saudis and work something out.”
The comments from Trump and the Saudis suggested they did not want the episode to escalate into a wider conflict, just a week before world leaders converge at the United Nations for the General Assembly. Trump had proposed meeting with Iran’s president, Hassan Rouhani, possibly at the annual gathering in New York, although Iran ruled that out on Monday.