WASHINGTON — The Pentagon on Thursday said the recent strikes on Saudi Arabian oil facilities were “sophisticated” and represented a “dramatic escalation” in tensions within the region.
“This has been a dramatic escalation of what we have seen in the past. This was a number of airborne projectiles, was very sophisticated, coordinated and it had a dramatic impact on the global markets,” Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said, adding that the strike is an international problem.
“What I think this has done is internationalize the problem,” Hoffman said. “They have really shown the impact of how debilitating that could be. The expectation that we have and I think the Saudis do is that our international partners are going to take a look at this and realize that it’s time for them to step up and help them deter Iranian behavior but also get Iran back on the diplomatic path.”
The Pentagon declined to say if there would be additional military assets moved to the region in the wake of Saturday’s pre-dawn attacks.
“We are constantly assessing the region and the environment, but we do not have any announcements to make at this time in terms of any type of force adjustment,” said U.S. Air Force Col. Patrick Ryder, spokesman for the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
The Pentagon also reiterated that the United States does not seek a conflict with Iran and called on Tehran to return to diplomatic channels.
“Our goal has been to deter conflict in the Middle East … we do not want conflict. What we see is that when Iran is confronted with diplomatic and economic challenges based on their behavior, they’ve responded with military action and we want to get them back in the diplomatic channels,” Hoffman said.
The strikes on the world’s largest crude-processing plant and oil field forced the kingdom to shut down half of its production operations. What’s more, the event triggered the largest spike in crude prices in decades and renewed concerns of a budding conflict in the Middle East. All the while, Iran maintains that it was not behind the attacks.
On Wednesday, Saudi Arabia’s defense ministry said that drone and missile debris recovered by investigators shows Iranian culpability. Saudi coalition spokesman Col. Turki al-Maliki said during a press briefing in Riyadh that all military components retrieved from the oil facilities “point to Iran.”
The latest confrontation follows a string of attacks in the Persian Gulf in recent months.
In June, U.S. officials said an Iranian surface-to-air missile shot down an American military surveillance drone over the Strait of Hormuz. Iran said the aircraft was over its territory. Hours later, Trump said Iran made a “very big mistake” by shooting down the spy drone. The downing came a week after the U.S. blamed Iran for attacks on two oil tankers in the Persian Gulf region and after four tankers were attacked in May.
The U.S. in June slapped new sanctions on Iranian military leaders blamed for shooting down the drone. The measures also aimed to block financial resources for Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Though Trump has threatened to bring military action or even “fire and fury” against American adversaries, he has also said he does not want to throw the U.S. into another prolonged military conflict. In a tweet Tuesday, Trump called his measured response to the strikes “a sign of strength that some people just don’t understand!”