September 19, 2019 / 4:39 PM / 24 days ago

U.S. consulting with Saudi Arabia on ways to counter threats from north

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. military said on Thursday it was consulting with Saudi Arabia on ways to mitigate threats from the north after Saturday’s attack on Saudi oil facilities, which U.S. officials have blamed on Iran.

The Pentagon officials declined to specifically say what kinds of changes to Saudi defenses might be examined.

Billions of dollars spent by Saudi Arabia on cutting edge Western military hardware mainly designed to deter high altitude attacks proved no match for low-cost drones and cruise missiles used in a strike that crippled its giant oil industry.

One U.S. official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told Reuters that the trajectory of the incoming missiles and drones - from the north as opposed to the south - made them difficult for Riyadh to defend against, exposing a gap in the kingdom’s capabilities.

“Clearly there was an attack on this oil facility and U.S. Central Command is in consultation with the Saudis to discuss potential ways to look at mitigating future attacks,” Colonel Patrick Ryder, a spokesman for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters during a press conference.

Another spokesman, speaking at the same news briefing, declined to say whether the U.S. military believed the drone and missile attack was launched from Iranian territory, deferring to Saudi Arabia’s ongoing assessment.

“We’re not going to get ahead of them on that,” spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said, while acknowledging indications that Tehran was to blame. He said that the aim was to get Iran back on the diplomatic path.

Reuters has previously reported that the United States believes the attack was launched from Iran.

Reporting by Phil Stewart and Idrees Ali; Editing by Marguerita Choy

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