As Ed noted earlier, Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani demanded Sunday that western powers remove troops from the Persian Gulf. He was probably hoping for a warm welcome at the UN where he could complain about US intervention to a sympathetic European audience.
But today the ground shifted under Rouhani’s feet. President Emmanuel Macron of France, Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany and Prime Minister Boris Johnson of the UK released a joint statement today stating “it is clear to us that Iran bears responsibility for the attack” on Saudi Arabian oil production. The statement continues, “There is no other plausible explanation.” Here’s the full statement:
— French Embassy UK (@FranceintheUK) September 23, 2019
This represents a win for the Trump administration which said almost immediately that Iran was responsible for the attack. Vox points out the significance of the joint statement:
This is significant. Ever since the US withdrew from the nuclear agreement last year, the European countries who are party to the agreement — which include the nations from the statement — have tried to maintain good relations with Tehran.
French President Emmanuel Macron in particular has worked tirelessly to keep the accord alive and even tried to broker a meeting between President Donald Trump and his Iranian counterpart, Hassan Rouhani, at the UN this week.
But it seems they cannot ignore the intelligence they have, and decided to openly condemn the Islamic Republic.
The NY Times notes that even John Kerry doesn’t buy Iran’s denials:
They are denying any Iranian involvement in the destruction of two major Saudi oil facilities, an assertion that even former Secretary of State John Kerry, who negotiated the nuclear accord four years ago and has become its biggest defender, finds far-fetched. Iran, he said, was behind the attack “one way or the other.”
That’s still a bit of a cop-out on Kerry’s part. The evidence shows that the drones and missiles used in the attack were Iranian in design and were launched from Iran. There’s no other way to view this. Still, it’s something that even Kerry isn’t leaping to Iran’s defense this time.
Last week, Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif threatened “all-out war” if Iran were attacked in reprisal for the strike on Saudi Arabia. But Trump and Saudi Arabia have options other than a military strike. In fact, Trump hinted that things are taking place now which haven’t been revealed yet:
“We have a lot of pressure on them right now — more pressure than they’ve ever had. … A lot of things are happening with respect to Iran. A lot more than you would know. A lot more than the media knows, OK? I’ll be discussing it a little bit tomorrow,” he said, one day before his address to the U.N. General Assembly…
During the General Assembly, the Trump administration intends to bring the focus on Iran after blaming it for the massive Saudi attack, according to a senior State Department official, but they added that the U.S. is really looking for the Saudis to take the lead and present evidence to the U.N. to rally international support for them after they suffered this attack.
“Now it’s up to the international community and really up to Saudi Arabia for what they’re going to say this week, what they’re going to present to the U.N. because it was the Saudis that were attacked and had almost 60% of their oil supply taken off the market,” the official said.
So we’ll probably have a clearer picture of what is happening tomorrow but it looks like the world is finally lining up against Iran after this latest attack.