Saudis tell U.S. Iran planning attack on kingdom – Reuters

Saudi Arabia has shared intelligence with US officials suggesting Iran may be preparing for an imminent attack on the kingdom, three US officials confirmed on Tuesday.

Heightened concerns over a potential attack on Saudi Arabia as the Biden administration criticizes Tehran for its crackdown on widespread protests and condemns it for sending hundreds of drones – along with technical support – to Russia for use in his war in Ukraine.

“We are concerned about the threat image and remain in constant contact with the Saudis through military and intelligence channels,” the National Security Council said in a statement. “We will not hesitate to act in defense of our interests and our partners in the region.”

One of the officials who confirmed the intelligence sharing described it as a credible threat of attack “soon or within 48 hours”. No U.S. embassy or consulate in the region has issued any alerts or advice to Americans in Saudi Arabia or elsewhere in the Middle East based on the intelligence. Officials were not authorized to comment publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.

Asked about intelligence reports shared by the Saudis, Brig. Pentagon press secretary Gen. Pat Ryder said US military officials “are concerned about the threat situation in the region.”

“We are in regular contact with our Saudi partners, in terms of any information they may have to provide on this front,” Ryder said. “But what we’ve said before, and I’ll say it again, is that we reserve the right to protect and defend ourselves no matter where our forces are serving, whether in Iraq or elsewhere.”

The Wall Street Journal first reported that the Saudis shared the intelligence earlier on Tuesday.

The United States and the Saudis accused Iran in 2019 of being behind a major attack in eastern Saudi Arabia that halved the oil-rich kingdom’s output and sparked a spike in energy prices. The Iranians denied being behind the attack.

Saudis have also been hit repeatedly in recent years by drones, missiles and mortars launched by Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen in retaliation for Saudi involvement in the civil war that began there in 2014. Saudi Arabia has formed a coalition to fight the Houthis. in 2015 and came under international criticism for its airstrikes, which killed dozens of civilians.

In recent weeks, the Biden administration has imposed sanctions on Iranian officials for the brutal treatment of protesters after the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in September while in the custody of Iranian security forces. The administration also hit Iran with sanctions for supplying drones to Russia for use in its war in Ukraine.

At least 270 people have been killed and 14,000 arrested during the protests, according to the group Human Rights Activists in Iran. Protests continued, even as feared paramilitary Revolutionary Guards warned young Iranians to stop.

US relations with Saudi Arabia have also been strained after the Riyadh-led alliance of oil-producing nations, OPEC+, announced in October that it would cut output by 2 million barrels a day. from November.

The White House said it was reviewing its relationship with the Saudis over the move. The administration said the production cut was effectively helping another OPEC+ member, Russia, replenish its coffers as it continues its war in Ukraine, now in its ninth month.

White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby reiterated on Tuesday that the administration remains concerned that Iran may also supply Russia with surface-to-surface missiles.

“We haven’t seen that concern confirmed, but it’s a concern we have,” Kirby said.

Even as the United States and others worry about Iran’s nefarious action, the administration has not ruled out the possibility of reviving the Iran-brokered 2015 Iran nuclear deal. Obama administration and abandoned in 2018 by the Trump administration.

US special envoy to Iran Robert Malley said Monday that the administration was not currently focused on the deal, which has stalled since August.

Still, Malley refused to declare the deal dead and said the administration “makes no apologies” for “trying to do everything we can to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.”

The pact, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA, would provide Tehran with billions of dollars in sanctions relief in exchange for the country agreeing to reduce its nuclear program to limits set by the 2015 agreement. It includes caps on enrichment and the amount of material Iran can stockpile and limits the operation of advanced centrifuges needed for enrichment.

—Aamer Madhani, Matthew Lee and Lolita C. Baldor, Associated Press

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