Iran Rejects Talks With the US at any Level

Image provided on Sunday shows damage to the infrastructure at Saudi Aramco’s Kuirais oil field in Buqyaq, Saudi Arabia, from a Saturday drone attack. (U.S. government/Digital Globe via AP)

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran’s supreme leader said Tuesday “there will be no talks with the U.S. at any level” — remarks apparently meant to end all speculation about a possible U.S.-Iran meeting between the two countries’ presidents at the U.N. this month.

Iranian state TV quoted Ayatollah Ali Khamenei as saying this is the position of the entire leadership, and that “all officials in the Islamic Republic unanimously believe” this.

“There will be no talks with the U.S. at any level,” he said.

Khamenei said the United States wants to prove its “maximum pressure policy” against Iran is successful.

“In return, we have to prove that the policy is not worth a penny for the Iranian nation,” Khamenei said. “That’s why all Iranian officials, from the president and the foreign minister to all others have announced that we do not negotiate [with the United States] either bilaterally or multilaterally.”

There had been reports about a possible meeting between President Trump and his Iranian counterpart, Hassan Rouhani, during the U.N. General Assembly this month in New York.

But tensions roiling the Persian Gulf have escalated after a weekend attack on major oil sites in Saudi Arabia that the United States blamed on Iran — a charge Iran denies.

The crisis between Washington and Tehran stems from Trump’s pullout last year from the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers. He also reimposed and escalated sanctions on Iran, sending the country’s economy into freefall.

The attack on Saudi Arabia, which set ablaze a crucial Saudi oil processing plant and a key oil field, was claimed by Yemen’s Iranian-allied Houthi rebels, who are at war with a Saudi-led coalition that is trying to restore Yemen’s internationally recognized government to power.

Trump said Monday that it “looks” like Iran was behind the drone attack on the Saudi oil facilities. But he said that military retaliation was not yet, despite saying previously that he was “locked and loaded” in response to the drone strike.

Oil prices soared worldwide due to the damage in Saudi Arabia and Middle East war concerns. But Trump put the brakes on any talk of quick military action and said the oil impact would not be significant on the United States, which is a net energy exporter.

The Saudi government called the attack an “unprecedented act of aggression and sabotage” but stopped short of directly pinning blame on Iran.

One U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the United States was considering dispatching additional military resources to the Gulf but that no decisions had been made. The United States already has the USS Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier battle group in the area, as well as fighter jets, bombers, reconnaissance aircraft and air defenses.

Trump, alternating between aggressive and nonviolent reactions, said the United States could respond “with an attack many, many times larger” but that “I’m not looking at options right now.”

U.S. officials released satellite images of the damage at the heart of the kingdom’s Abqaiq processing plant and a key oilfield, and two U.S. officials said the attackers used multiple cruise missiles and drone aircraft.

Private experts said the satellite images show the attackers had detailed knowledge of which tanks and machinery to hit in the sprawling Saudi oil processing facility to cripple production. But “satellite imagery can’t show you where the attack originated from,” said Joe Bermudez, an expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies who examined the images.

The United States claims the pattern of destruction suggested Saturday’s attack did not come from neighboring Yemen, as claimed by the Houthis there. A Saudi military official said “Iranian weapons” had been used.

The Saudis invited the U.N. and other international experts to help investigate, suggesting there was no rush to retaliate.

For his part, Khamenei on Tuesday reiterated Iran’s stance that if the United States returns to the nuclear deal, Tehran would consider negotiations.

“Otherwise, no talks will happen … with the Americans,” he said. “Neither in New York nor anywhere” else.

%d bloggers like this: