Wary of conflict with Iran, Trump takes go-slow approach to attack on Saudi oil

Reuters Washington Sep 18, 2019, 09.50 AM(IST)

US President Donald Trump speaks to the news media as he departs for travel to Iowa from the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, US, June 11, 2019.  Photograph:( Reuters )

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After state-owned Saudi Aramco's plants were struck on Saturday, Trump did not wait long to fire off a tweet that the United States was "locked and loaded" to respond, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo blamed Iran.

Known for acting on impulse, President Donald Trump has adopted an uncharacteristically go-slow approach over whether to hold Iran responsible for attacks on Saudi oil facilities, showing little enthusiasm for confrontation as he seeks re-election next year.

After state-owned Saudi Aramco's plants were struck on Saturday, Trump did not wait long to fire off a tweet that the United States was "locked and loaded" to respond, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo blamed Iran.

But four days later, Trump has no timetable for action. Instead, he wants to wait and see the results of investigations into what happened and is sending Pompeo to consult counterparts in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates this week.

"There's plenty of time," Trump told reporters on Monday. "You know, there's no rush. We'll all be here a long time. There's no rush."

Two US officials told on Tuesday that Washington believes the attack was launched from Iran, with one of them saying it originated in Iran's southwest.

US officials say Trump, who is famously skeptical of his intelligence community, wants to ensure the culprit is positively identified in a way that will pass muster not only with him but with the American people.

"In responding to the greatest attack on the global oil markets in history, I think not rushing to respond and ensuring everybody is on the same page is where we should be," said a US official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Trump's stance today is in stark contrast to 2017, less than three months into his presidency, when he waited only two days before launching air strikes to punish Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's forces for a chemical weapons attack.