Timeline of Saudi Oil Attacks

On September 14, a drone and missile attack damaged a processing facility and oil field in Abqaiq and Khurais, Saudi Arabia. The Houthi rebels in Yemen claimed responsibility, but U.S. and Saudi officials claimed the attacks originated outside of Yemen. Both countries claimed Iran was involved. Tehran has been widely accused of providing the Houthis with weapons, training and financial support.  

Sept. 14: The Abqaiq and Khurais facilities—both run by the state-owned company Saudi Aramco—were struck by projectiles in a pre-dawn attack. Abqaiq, the kingdom’s largest oil processing facility, was considered one of the most important oil infrastructure sites in the world. It had the capacity to process 7 million barrels of oil per day. Khurais, one of Saudi Arabia’s largest oil fields, added an additional 1.5 million barrels per day in production. The attacks suspended production of 5.7 million barrels per day—about 6 percent of global oil supply—according to Saudi Aramco. 

The United States accused Iran of facilitating the drone attacks. "Amid all the calls for de-escalation, Iran has now launched an unprecedented attack on the world's energy supply. There is no evidence the attacks came from Yemen," said Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. He added that Tehran had “pretended to engage in diplomacy” with the United States.   

Iran denied any responsibility for the attacks. On September 15, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said blaming Iran would not end the regional conflict. "Having failed at max pressure, Sec Pompeo is turning to max deceit,” Zarif tweeted. 

Sept. 15: Iranian President Hassan Rouhani condemned U.S. interference in the region. Rouhani said the United States was running a "war operation" by "supporting the UAE and Saudi Arabia, transferring weapons, and providing intelligence."  

President Trump walked back previous offers to negotiate with Tehran without preconditions. He blamed the “Fake News” for the reports, which he called “incorrect." 

Sept 16: The United States reportedly told Saudi Arabia it believed Iran was the staging ground for the Abqaiq attacks. Coalition spokesman Colonel al Maliki said the attacks were not launched from within Yemen. Tehran denied the claims.  

Trump still thought the United States and Iran could make a deal. “No, it’s never exhausted. ... You never know what’s going to happen. ... I know they want to make a deal. ... At some point it will work out,” he told reporters. Trump added that the United States was “more prepared” for a conflict than any other country in history. He claimed the United States had the most advanced weapons system in the world and said he was “not concerned at all” with the possibility of war. 

Sept 17: Iran’s supreme leader ruled out the possibility of bilateral talks with Washington. His remarks came one day after President Donald Trump blamed Iran for an attack on Saudi oil facilities that cut production in half. Tehran denied involvement. In remarks to seminary students, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei seemed to rule out a potential meeting between President  Rouhani and President Trump on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly later in September. “The policy of maximum pressure on the Iranian nation is of little importance, and all the officials in the Islamic Republic unanimously believe that there will be no negotiations at any level with the United States,” said Khamenei.  


U.S. officials said they believed the attack was launched from southwest Iran, according to a Reuters report. The United States judged that both cruise missiles and drones were used in a complex and sophisticated assault. 

Sept 18: Saudi Arabia’s Defense Ministry held a press conference to display material evidence allegedly proving Iranian involvement in attacks on two oil facilities. “Despite Iran's best efforts to make it appear so, their collaboration with their proxy in the region to create this false narrative is clear,” said Saudi military spokesman Colonel Turki al Malki. Riyadh concluded that Iran or one of its proxies launched a sophisticated assault involving drones and cruise missiles from a location north of Saudi Arabia. Al Malki said the attacks were “unquestionably sponsored by Iran” but stopped short of explicitly accusing Tehran for the attack. The Saudis said they were still “working to know exactly the launch point.” 

Al Malki told reporters that both drones and missiles were launched at Abqaiq and that cruise missiles struck the Khurais facility. Riyadh said eighteen drones and seven cruise missiles were used in the attacks, with three missiles falling short of their target. The cruise missiles had a range of 700 kilometers (435 miles), according to al Maliki, which meant they could not have been fired from inside Yemen. The Saudi government also presented video footage of a drone striking from the north.  

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called the attacks on Saudi Arabian oil facilities an “act of war.” He denied claims that the attacks originated in Yemen. "As for how we know, the equipment used is unknown to be in the Houthi arsenal. These line attack cruise missiles we have never seen there and we think we’ve seen most everything,” Pompeo said. President Trump said the United States would “substantially increase sanctions” against Tehran within the next 48 hours.

Sept. 19: Iranian Foreign Minister warned that Tehran could respond to a U.S. or Saudi military strike with “all-out war.” He questioned Saudi resolve and told CNN that the kingdom was prepared to fight "to the last American soldier." Zarif said Tehran hoped to avoid conflict but added, “We won't blink to defend our territory.” 

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who was meeting with Saudi and Emirati leaders in the region, said the United States was building “a coalition aimed at achieving peace and a peaceful resolution.” Pompeo repeated Trump’s warning that additional sanctions would be imposed on Tehran in the coming days.