Saudi Arabia said that armed drones on Tuesday struck two of its oil pumping stations, two days after the sabotage of oil tankers near the United Arab Emirates (UAE), while the U.S. military said it was braced for "possibly imminent threats to USA forces in Iraq" from Iran-backed forces.
A team of USA military investigators reportedly believes Iran or its proxies orchestrated the bomb attacks on four commercial vessels anchored off the coast of the United Arab Emirates on Sunday, two of them Saudi oil tankers.
The attacks targeted two oil pump stations on the East-West Pipeline, which carries oil from Saudi Arabia's Eastern Province to the Port of Yanbu, the Saudi Press Agency reported.
"These attacks prove again that it is important for us to face terrorist entities, including the Houthi militias in Yemen that are backed by Iran", Falih said, calling the attack an "act of terrorism" that targeted the world's global oil supply.
Saudi Arabia's Energy Minister Khalid al Falih said that Saudi Aramco had "temporarily shut down" the pipeline to "evaluate its condition" but added that oil production and exports had not been interrupted.
The announcement by al-Falih came as the UAE's regional allies condemned the reported sabotage on Sunday of four ships off the coast of the port city of Fujairah.
Oil prices rose on news of the attack on the Saudi pumping stations, more than 200 miles (320 km) west of the capital Riyadh. According to the Financial Times, Iran-backed Houthi Rebels, against whom Riyadh has waged war since 2015, claimed responsibility.
The drone attack was preceded by yet another attack on two oil tankers just a day earlier.
"We had formerly anticipated that they would carry out these sorts of activities to escalate tension", the foreign minister said.
Iran's foreign ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi has asked for more details, reported Al Jazeera, quoting Iran's official IRNA news agency.
Tehran has called the USA military presence "a target" rather than a threat, and said it would not allow its oil exports to be halted.
Arab military analysts have publicly doubted that an armed attack against the ships took place.
Saudi Arabia, along with the United Arab Emirates, leads a regional coalition of Sunni Muslim nations fighting the northern Shiite Houthi rebels who are aligned with Iran's Shiite theocracy.
The U.S. already had warned ships that "Iran or its proxies" could be targeting maritime traffic in the region.
As tensions between the United States and Iran have increased, Tehran has threatened to close the strategic Strait of Hormuz. United States intelligence sources have alleged Iran is behind the unexplained attacks, but added Washington does not have enough proof to back that claim.
In a major incident that could have wide-ranging ramifications across the Middle East, Saudi Arabia said Monday two of its oil tankers were sabotaged off the UAE coast.