Many questions remain unanswered about the pre-dawn attacks on Saudi Arabian oil facilities that sent crude prices skyrocketing, but perhaps the most pressing is whether the trigger will be pulled on a military response.
Tensions roiling the Persian Gulf have escalated following a weekend attack on major oil sites in Saudi Arabia that USA alleged Iran was responsible for. And just last week, senior State Department advisor Brian Hook wrote an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal arguing Iran "is effectively extending its borders, enlarging its sphere of influence, and launching lethal attacks against rivals" via the Houthis.
The attacks come as Saudi Arabia prepares to sell stock in its state-owned oil giant Saudi Aramco, in what's predicted to be the largest IPO in history. Speaking to students, he said that was the reason why Rouhani, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and other officials "unanimously declared we won't negotiate with USA bilaterally or multilaterally".
"Iranian officials, at any level, will never talk to American officials. this is part of their policy to put pressure on Iran", Iranian state TV quoted Ayatollah Ali Khamenei as saying.
The increase, which follows drone attacks on Saudi Arabia's Abqaiq oil processing plant and Khurais oil field, marks the single-largest daily surge in crude prices in years.
U.S. President Donald Trump on Monday said it looked like Iran was behind attacks on oil plants in Saudi Arabia at the weekend that raised fears of a fresh Middle East conflict, but added that he did not want war with anyone.
Faced with a possible disruption to the U.S. energy supply, Trump said Sunday that he has authorized the release of oil from the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve if necessary "in a to-be-determined amount. sufficient to keep the markets well-supplied". But Khamenei said any talks with the Americans would lead to the "imposition of their demands on Iran" and mean their policy of "maximum pressure" was a success.
U.S. -Iran relations deteriorated after Trump quit the accord and reimposed sanctions over Tehran's nuclear and ballistic programs.
On Monday, President Trump implied Iran's denials were false, mentioning the country's recent downing of a USA drone and ending a tweet by asking, "We'll see?"
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo swiftly blamed Iran for the strikes, without offering evidence - a claim swiftly rebuffed by Tehran, which insisted it was not responsible.
Saudi Arabia and Iran have been enemies for decades and are fighting a number of proxy wars, including in Yemen where Saudi forces have been fighting against the Houthis for four years. It was the worst such attack on regional oil facilities since Saddam Hussein torched Kuwait's oil wells during the 1990-91 Gulf war.
Pompeo and others will travel to Saudi Arabia soon, Trump said. The US has no treaty obligation to defend Saudi Arabia. "But we would certainly help them".
U.S. allies in Europe oppose Trump's "maximum pressure" strategy, arguing that it provides no clear mechanism to resolve issues, creating a risk the enemies could stumble into war. Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen-who have been fighting against a Saudi-led coalition since 2015 as part of the country's civil war-have claimed responsibility for the strike, but USA officials have instead pointed the finger at Iran.
Saudi Arabia and the UAE have led a military coalition against the Houthis and in support of the government of Yemen's President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, resulting in what the United Nations calls the world's worst humanitarian disaster.
The Iranian president and foreign minister are going to attend an annual meeting of the United Nations general Assembly in NY later this month. Iran says there can be no talks until Washington lifts sanctions.