JEDDAH: Baghdad on Sunday denied any link to drone attacks on Saudi oil plants, after media speculation that the strikes were launched from Iraq despite being claimed by Yemeni rebels.
The attacks early Saturday targeted two key oil installations, causing massive fires and taking out half of the Kingdom’s vast oil output.
The operation was claimed by Iran-backed Houthi militia in Yemen, where an Arab coalition has been fighting to restore the internationally recognized government.
But the Wall Street Journal reported that officials were investigating the possibility the attacks involved missiles launched from Iraq or Iran.
Some Iraqi media outlets also said Saturday’s attack on Saudi oil facilities came from Iraq but Prime Minister Adel Abdel Mahdi on Sunday denied the reports and vowed to punish anyone who did use Iraq as a launch pad for attacks in the region.
“Iraq is constitutionally committed to preventing any use of its soil to attack its neighbors,” he said. “The Iraqi government will be extremely firm with whomever tries to violate the constitution.”
The reports come after US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo squarely accused Tehran of being behind Saturday’s operation, saying there was no evidence the “unprecedented attack on the world’s energy supply” was launched from Yemen.
Kuwait also said it was investigating the sighting of a drone over its territory and is coordinating with Saudi Arabia and other countries.
“The security leadership has started the necessary investigations over the sighting of a drone over the coastline of Kuwait City and what measures were taken to confront it,” the Kuwaiti cabinet said.
Prime Minister Sheikh Jaber Al-Mubarak Al-Sabah directed military and security officers to tighten security at vital installations and to take all necessary measures “to protect Kuwait’s security.”
Local Kuwaiti media reported that witnesses say they saw a drone near a presidential palace on Saturday morning, around the same time of the attacks in Saudi Arabia.
Iraq is home to several Iran-backed militias and paramilitary factions, placing it in an awkward situation amid rising tensions between its two main sponsors, Tehran and Washington.
Iraq has called for its territory to be spared any spillover in the standoff between the US and Iran, which has included a series of attacks on shipping in sensitive Gulf waters.
Recent raids on bases belonging to Iraqi Shiite paramilitary groups linked with Iran, attributed to Israel, sparked fears of an escalation.
There have been no military consequences so far, but the strikes have heightened divisions between pro-Tehran and pro-Washington factions in Iraq’s political class.
Baghdad has recently moved to repair ties with Saudi Arabia, a key US ally — much to Iran’s chagrin.
Riyadh recently announced a major border post on the Iraqi frontier would reopen mid-October, after being closed for almost three decades.