U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has responded to Iran's threats of "all-out war" by saying the United States "would like a peaceful resolution" to the crisis sparked by a weekend attack on Saudi Arabia's oil infrastructure.
After meeting with allies in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (U.A.E.), Pompeo said on September 19 that there was an "enormous consensus in the region" that Iran carried out the attack, despite its denials.
Tensions in the region have soared to new heights following the September 14 attack on a Saudi oil field and the world's largest crude oil-processing plant.
Yemen's Iran-backed Huthi rebels had earlier said they were behind the attack, and Tehran denies any involvement.
But Washington and Riyadh have blamed Tehran. Saudi Arabia, which is leading a coalition of Arab states fighting against the Huthis, on September 18 put on display drone and missile fragments that it said were used in the attack.
"The attack was launched from the north and unquestionably sponsored by Iran," Defense Ministry spokesman Colonel Turki al-Malki told a news conference in Riyadh, adding that the exact launch site was still being investigated.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif warned on September 19 that the result of any U.S. or Saudi military strike against his country would result in an "all-out war."
"I am making a very serious statement that we don't want war, we don't want to engage in a military confrontation.... But we won't blink to defend our territory," Zarif told CNN.
In response, Pompeo told reporters in the U.A.E. capital, Abu Dhabi, where he held talks with Crown Prince Muhammad bin Zayid al-Nahyan: "We are still striving to build out a coalition in an act of diplomacy while the foreign minister of Iran is threatening all-out war and to fight to the last American.”
“We're here to build up a coalition aimed at achieving peace," the top U.S. diplomat added.
Washington supports Riyadh’s "right to defend itself,” Pompeo tweeted on September 18 after meeting Saudi Arabia’s powerful Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman in the Red Sea port city of Jeddah.
The Iranian regime’s “threatening behavior will not be tolerated,” he wrote.
A day later, the Saudi-led coalition destroyed a boat laden with explosives that was launched from Yemen by the Huthis, coalition spokesman Colonel Turki al-Malki said.
The vessel was rigged and unmanned, he said, without specifying its intended target.
U.S. President Donald Trump has said that a variety of options, including war, were available as a response.
"There are many options. There's the ultimate option and there are options that are a lot less than that. And we'll see," Trump told reporters in Los Angeles. "I'm saying the ultimate option meaning go in -- war."
Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan said his country "fully supports the [Saudi] kingdom with all its capacities in confronting these sabotage acts," the Saudi Press Agency quoted him as saying during a meeting with the Saudi crown prince in Jeddah.
Islamabad enjoys close ties with Riyadh, which has helped the Pakistani economy in propping up its foreign-exchange reserves.
When asked about military retaliation, Saudi Arabia's ambassador to Germany said in an interview with Deutschlandfunk radio on September 19 that "everything is on the table."
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said that the claim by Yemeni rebels "lacks credibility," though he cautioned that the world should “wait for the results” of an international investigation until making a definitive determination of guilt.
Before arriving in Saudi Arabia, Pompeo said the attacks were an Iranian "act of war" and called the Huthi rebels' claim of responsibility "fraudulent."
"We were blessed that there were no Americans killed in this attack, but any time you have an act of war of this nature, there's always risk that that could happen," he said.
Pompeo said U.S. intelligence experts have "high confidence" the Huthis do not possess the weapons used in the incident.
The latest escalation in tensions has dampened speculation of a possible meeting between Trump and Iranian President Hassan Rohani during a gathering of the UN General Assembly in New York later this month.
After what Tehran called delays, Zarif and Rohani were issued U.S. visas on September 19 to attend the event. The Foreign Ministry said Zarif will leave early the next day.
The Iranian foreign minister earlier accused his U.S. counterpart of refusing to issue visas for Iran's delegation to the event, writing in a tweet that Pompeo “tries to dodge U.S. obligation to issue visas for UN delegates by resorting to self-arrogated designations."
Trump has said that if it were up to him, he would give the two Iranian leaders U.S. visas to attend the annual gathering.
The United States is required as host country to issue the visas. The State Department said it does not comment on individual cases.
Relations between Washington and Tehran have soured since the United States withdrew from the Iranian nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers last year, and reimposed sanctions over the country's nuclear and ballistic-missile programs.