Attack on Saudi oil plants : Probing all angles and use of cruise missiles

drone attack on saudi Arabia Aramco Photo Credit: Reuters sep 14, 2019

Sep 15: The investigators are probing whether the coordinated attacks on Saudi Arabia’s Aramco oil plants was carried by cruise missiles or drones because of the extent of damage caused to the country’s vital energy assets. After US rejected Houthis claim and accused Iran of executing such act, the experts are investigating the possibility of Iran or Iraq’s role in the attack , which has the potential to destabilize the Middle East.

The coordinated drone strikes on Saudi Arabia’s Aramco oil plants on September 14 has escalated the tensions between Iran and United States Another aspect is it has the potential to impact world oil prices.

The attacks has knocked down approximately 5.7 million barrels per day (bpd) of the kingdom’s oil production and the restoration of full supply may take weeks.

Immediately after the attack, the Houthis said that the attack was carried out by 10 unmanned aircrafts that hit Hijra Khurais and Abqaiq.

Hijra Khurais is one of Saudi Arabia’s largest oil fields, producing about 1.5 million barrels a day and Abqaiq, the world’s biggest crude stabilization facility, which processes seven million barrels of Saudi oil a day, or about 8 per cent of the world’s total output. The attack has disrupted about half of the Kingdom’s oil capacity, or 5 per cent of the daily global oil supply.

The Saudi Arabian government has not released any statement on the number of deaths but are assessing the damage caused by drone attacks.

Saudi-led coalition has launched probe into drone attacks after Yemen’s Houthi rebels, who took control of Yemen’s capital of Sanaa in 2014 took credit for the attack.

Houthis have been engaging in drone strikes to target Saudi Arabia before, who are at a distance of 500 miles from Yemen but the distance between Saudi Arabia-Yemen border to Khurais is about 770km.

Rejecting Houthis claim, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was quick to blame Iran for the drone attack at an oil field in Saudi Arabia.

“Tehran is behind nearly 100 attacks on Saudi Arabia while (President Hassan) Rouhani and (Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad) Zarif pretend to engage in diplomacy. Amid all the calls for de-escalation, Iran has now launched an unprecedented attack on the world’s energy supply,”Pompeo tweeted.”There is no evidence the attacks came from Yemen.”

In another tweet, Pompeo also called for other countries to denounce Iran in retaliation to Saturday’s attack and promised American efforts to help support the energy market.

“We call on all nations to publicly and unequivocally condemn Iran’s attacks. The US will work with our partners and allies to ensure that energy markets remain well supplied and Iran is held accountable for its aggression,” he added.

Pompeo did not provide any evidence to substantiate his accusations.
US-Iran tensions escalated after Trump unilaterally pulled out of 2015 Iran nuclear deal and in July US said Iran was behind attacks on two oil tankers in the Gulf.

There are also reports that only cruise missile can cause such a massive damage, therefore, the investigators are probing all angles involving whether the attack was orchestrated and executed either by Iran or Iraq and cruise missile were used rather than drones.

Saudi Minister of Energy, Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman publicly admitted that the state energy company Aramco, the world’s largest oil producer,had stopped the production of some 5.7 million barrels of crude, about half of its total output.

Part of the reduction will be compensated for by drawing from Aramco’s oil stocks to cover customer demand, he added.

He emphasized that the attacks also prompted Aramco to halt associated gas production of about 2 billion cubic feet per day used to produce 700,000 barrels of liquid gas, thus reducing the total supply of ethane and natural gas by up to 50 percent.

US President Donald Trump made a phone call to Saudi Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman and acknowledged that the attack had affected both the global and the US economy.

Turki Al Maliki, the coalition spokesperson, said in a statement on the Saudi Press Agency that based on joint initial investigations with relevant authorities, the Joint Forces Command of the Coalition affirms that the investigations are ongoing. “The coalition continues to adopt and implement necessary procedures to deal with such terrorist threats in order to safeguard national assets, international energy security and ensure the stability of the world economy,” he said.

Both Iraq and Iran has denied their role in the attacks. Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif replied to Pompeo on Twitter, saying that “having failed at max pressure, Sec Pompeo’s turning to max deceit”.

Foreign ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said that Pompeo’s “blind accusations and remarks are incomprehensible and meaningless”. Mousavi said that it was about five years that the Saudi-led coalition has waged a full-scale war on Yemen by repeated aggression and committing atrocity crimes against the civilians.

By Arti Bali

Sr Journalist (International Affairs)

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