Remains of what was described as a misfired Iranian cruise missile used in an attack this weekend that targeted the heart of Saudi Arabia’s oil industry are displayed during a press conference in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.AP
Iran’s supreme leader personally approved devastating airstrikes on Saudi oil facilities – but insisted that Iran be able to plausibly deny the attacks, according to a new report Wednesday evening.
The alleged sign-off by Ayatollah Ali Khameni was revealed by a US official, CBS News said.
The US has damning evidence of Iran’s involvement in the form of secret satellite photos that show its Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps preparing to launch Saturday’s attacks from the Ahvas Air Base in southwestern Iran, officials told the network.
But in a bitter twist, no one realized the significance of the surveillance images until it was too late, CBS said.
“We were caught completely off guard,” one US official said.
In addition to the satellite photos, circuit boards recovered from the wreckage of cruise missiles and drones can be reverse-engineered to reveal the weapons’ flight paths to the massive oil-processing plant in Abqaiq and oil fields in Khurais, CBS said.
The aerial attacks unleashed a “tidal wave of flame,” a US official told CBS.
The strikes – which Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday called an “act of war” by Iran – cut Saudi Arabia’s oil output in half and sent futures prices soaring on Monday.
The market has since stabilized amid Saudi assurances it would resume full production.