Saudi Crisis: Iran’s Supreme Leader Says ‘No Talks’ With U.S. During U.N. Visit – NPR

Smoke was seen billowing from an Aramco facility in Abqaiq, Saudi Arabia, after it came under attack on Saturday. Hamad I Mohammed/Reuters hide caption

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Hamad I Mohammed/Reuters

Smoke was seen billowing from an Aramco facility in Abqaiq, Saudi Arabia, after it came under attack on Saturday.

Hamad I Mohammed/Reuters

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei says Iran “will hold no talks at any level with the U.S.,” blaming the Trump administration for requiring too many conditions. The U.S.-Iran talks had been mentioned as a possibility during the upcoming U.N. General Assembly in New York.

The statement comes as U.S. officials accuse Iran of playing a role in Saturday’s attack on oil facilities in Saudi Arabia — an attack that was claimed by Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen.

The U.S. administration has pursued a “maximum pressure” campaign against Iran that seeks to force it to abandon its nuclear program and make other changes. According to the official Islamic Republic News Agency, Khameni says it’s vital for Iran to prove the strategy “has absolutely no value.”

If the current U.S. campaign succeeds, Khameni says, Iran could then expect to face more “maximum pressure” policies from the international community.

Even after Trump took a threatening tone toward Iran over the attack in Saudi Arabia, advisers to President Trump said over the weekend that a meeting between Trump and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani was still possible. Iran’s leader has now ruled that out, saying Iran would only speak to the Americans if the U.S. “backs off and repents, and implements the nuclear deal from which they have withdrawn.”

The attack knocked out more than half of Saudi Arabia’s oil exporting capability and rocked financial markets. It has also created a pressure-packed situation in the Middle East, where a proxy war in Yemen between Iran and its Saudi rivals now threatens to escalate into a regional conflict.

The new tensions have prompted critiques from regional analysts who say the Trump administration’s policy of pulling out of the international nuclear deal and isolating Iran has backed the country into a corner.

“The Iranians have less and less to lose and take more and more risks, which is equally true of the Houthis,” as Ali Vaez of the International Crisis Group tells the French website Le Point.

There is now an “urgent need to de-escalate tensions in the Persian Gulf,” says Barbara Slavin, the director of the Future of Iran Initiative at the Atlantic Council.

On Sunday, Trump said the U.S. was “locked and loaded” to respond, pending verification of who was responsible the attack. But he added that he would wait to hear from Saudi Arabia about how the kingdom wants to proceed.

On Monday, the president said that while the U.S. is ready for war, he wants to avoid it.

“We have the best fighter jets, the best rockets, the best missiles, the best equipment,” Trump said, when asked if he wants a war with Iran. “But with all of that being said, we’d certainly like to avoid it.”

On the same day, Saudi officials said they believe the weapons used in the attack were made in Iran — and that they were working to determine where they had been launched from.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who pointedly accused Iran of launching the attack on Saudi Arabia over the weekend, is heading to visit the kingdom this week, along with other U.S. officials.