The U.S. military has no immediate plans to boost forces in the Mideast to counter Iran in response to the drone and missile attacks on Saudi oil facilities allegedly launched from Iranian territory, Pentagon officials said Thursday.
The U.S. is awaiting a final assessment from the Saudis on "where they believe the attacks came from," said Jonathan Hoffman, the chief Pentagon spokesman, adding that the assessment will take some time.
Hoffman declined to speculate on the possibility of a U.S. retaliatory strike. He said the Defense Department's responsibility is to provide President Donald Trump with military options, but "he makes the determination on what to do."
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has been clear in blaming Iran for the attacks that hit Saudi Arabia's largest oil production facility and the vast Al Khurais oil fields, but Hoffman was less direct.
"All indications we have are that Iran is in some way responsible," he said.
Air Force Col. Pat Ryder, who joined Hoffman at a Pentagon briefing, said the military has no immediate plans, and had received no directions, to bolster forces in the region.
"We certainly believe we have [the necessary] forces in the region we need to protect our forces" from any Iranian threats, and "we do not have any announcements to make at this time in regard to force posture," said Ryder, spokesman for the Joint Staff.
He said U.S. forensics teams are on the ground working with the Saudis to get a definitive assessment of the source and scope of the attacks, which initially knocked out about half of the Saudi oil production.
Ryder also said that U.S. Central Command is coordinating with the Saudis on "mitigating future attacks," but did not go into details.
Houthi rebels in Yemen, who are backed by Iran, initially claimed responsibility for the attacks, which Saudi defense officials have said involved at least 14 drones and five cruise missiles. But doubts immediately arose about the Houthis' capability to launch what Hoffman called a well-planned and "sophisticated" operation.
Defense Secretary Mark Esper said via Twitter on Monday that he spoke last weekend with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman about the attacks. He also said he and other Pentagon leaders met at the White House on Monday to discuss with Trump response options.
"The United States military, with our interagency team, is working with our partners to address this unprecedented attack and defend the international rules-based order that is being undermined by Iran," Esper said.
At the Pentagon briefing, Hoffman suggested that the U.S. is prepared to defer to the Saudis in assigning blame.
"This was an attack on Saudi Arabia. We're supporting their investigation," he said. "We have teams on the ground working with them, but we're not going to get ahead of their conclusions."
Ryder said the military's goal is "to deter conflict in the Middle East. We do not want conflict."
He urged Iran to "get back on the diplomatic path."
-- Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@Military.com.