Monday 16 December 2019
 
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'IT'S TIME TO TAKE OUT SWORDS'

Iran plot to attack Saudi Arabia revealed says report

LONDON, 20 days ago

Four months before the drone and missile attacks on Saudi Arabia's biggest oil processing facility, Iranian security officials discussed plans for the covert operation, a Reuters special report said.
 
The security group gathered at a heavily fortified compound in Tehran in May included the top echelons of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, an elite branch of the Iranian military whose portfolio includes missile development and covert operations, it said.
 
The main focus for the group was how to punish the US for pulling out of a landmark nuclear treaty and re-imposing economic sanctions on Iran, moves that have hit the coutry hard.
 
With Major General Hossein Salami, leader of the Revolutionary Guards, looking on, a senior commander told the gathering: "It is time to take out our swords and teach them a lesson”, Reuters said quoting four people familiar with the meeting.
 
Hardliners in the meeting talked of attacking high-value targets, including American military bases.
 
Yet, what ultimately emerged was a plan that stopped short of direct confrontation that could trigger a devastating US response. Iran opted instead to target oil installations of America’s ally, Saudi Arabia, a proposal discussed by top Iranian military officials in that meeting and at least four that followed.
 
This account, described to Reuters by three officials familiar with the meetings and a fourth close to Iran’s decision making, is the first to describe the role of Iran’s leaders in plotting the September 14 attack on Saudi Aramco, Saudi Arabia’s state-controlled oil company.
 
These people said Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei approved the operation, but with strict conditions: Iranian forces must avoid hitting any civilians or Americans.
 
Reuters said it was unable to confirm their version of events with Iran’s leadership. A Revolutionary Guards spokesman declined to comment. Tehran has steadfastly denied involvement.
 
Alireza Miryousefi, spokesman for the Iranian Mission to the United Nations in New York, rejected the version of events the four people described to Reuters. He said Iran played no part in the strikes, that no meetings of senior security officials took place to discuss such an operation, and that Khamenei did not authorise any attack.
 
“No, no, no, no, no, and no,” Miryousefi said to detailed questions from Reuters on the alleged gatherings and Khamenei’s purported role.
 
Reuters said Saudi government communications office did not respond to a request for comment. The US Central Intelligence Agency and Pentagon also declined to comment. 
 
Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthi rebels, at the center of a civil war against Saudi-backed forces, claimed responsibility for the assault on Saudi oil facilities. That declaration was rebuffed by US and Saudi officials, who said the sophistication of the offensive pointed to Iran.



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