Saudis tell US that Iran is preparing an attack on the kingdom

WASHINGTON (AP) — Saudi Arabia has shared information with American officials that suggests Iran may be preparing for an impending attack on the kingdom, three US officials confirmed on Tuesday.

Growing concerns over a possible attack on Saudi Arabia as the Biden government has criticized Tehran for its crackdown on widespread protests and condemned it for sending hundreds of drones — as well as technical support — to Russia for use in its war in Ukraine to have.

“We are concerned about the threat picture and remain in constant contact with the Saudis through military and intelligence channels,” the National Security Council said in a statement. “We will not hesitate to defend our interests and partners in the region.”

One of the officials who confirmed the information exchange described it as a credible threat of an attack “soon or within 48 hours.” No US embassy or consulate in the region has issued warnings or instructions to Americans in Saudi Arabia or elsewhere in the Middle East based on the intelligence information. The officers were not authorized to speak publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.

Asked for reports on the intelligence information shared by the Saudis, Brig. Gen. Gen. Pat Ryder, the Pentagon press secretary, said the US military was “concerned about the threat landscape in the region.”

“We are in regular contact with our Saudi partners regarding the information they need to provide on this front,” Ryder said. “But what we have already said, and I repeat, is that we will reserve the right to protect and defend ourselves wherever our forces are serving, whether in Iraq or elsewhere.”

The Wall Street Journal first reported Tuesday on the Saudis’ intelligence sharing.

The US and Saudis accused Iran in 2019 of being behind a major attack in eastern Saudi Arabia that halved the oil-rich kingdom’s production and sent energy prices skyrocketing. The Iranians denied being behind the attack.

The Saudis have also been hit repeatedly in recent years by drones, rockets and mortars fired by Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen in retaliation for Saudi involvement in the civil war that began there in 2014. Saudi Arabia formed a coalition to fight the Houthis in 2015 and has been criticized internationally for its airstrikes that have killed scores of civilians.

In recent weeks, the Biden administration has imposed sanctions on Iranian officials over the brutal treatment of protesters following the September death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini while he was in the custody of Iranian security forces. The government has also imposed sanctions on Iran for supplying drones to Russia for use in its war in Ukraine.

At least 270 people were killed and 14,000 arrested during the protests, according to the group Human Rights Activists in Iran. The demonstrations have continued despite the feared paramilitary Revolutionary Guard warned young Iranians to stop.

US relations with Saudi Arabia are also strained after the Riyadh-led alliance of oil-producing nations, OPEC+, announced in October that it would cut production by 2 million barrels a day from November.

The White House has said it will review its ties with the Saudis in light of the move. The government said the production cut is effectively helping another OPEC+ member, Russia, pad its coffers as it continues its war in Ukraine, now in its ninth month.

White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby reiterated Tuesday that the administration remains concerned that Iran could also supply Russia with surface-to-surface missiles.

“We have not seen confirmation of this concern, but it is a concern that we have,” Kirby said.

Even as the US and others raise concerns about shameful Iranian actions, the administration has not ruled out the possibility of a revival of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, brokered by the Obama administration and scrapped by the Trump administration in 2018.

US special envoy for Iran Robert Malley said Monday the government is not currently focused on the deal, which has been stalled since August.

Still, Malley refused to declare the deal dead, saying the government “makes no apologies” for “doing everything we can to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.”

The pact, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA, would give Tehran billions of dollars in sanctions relief if the country agrees to scale back its nuclear program to the limits set by the 2015 deal. It sets limits on enrichment and how much material Iran can store, and limits the operation of advanced centrifuges needed for enrichment. Saudis tell US that Iran is preparing an attack on the kingdom

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