The prospects for a relaxing golf have been shattered at the weekend. Early Saturday morning, what analysts have been warning about for some time: the heart of the Saudi oil industry became the target of an attack. A state oil company in Abkaik and the oil field in Khurais were bombarded with drones. Both are located in the east of the country. The plant in Abkaik is the largest in Saudi Arabia for the processing of crude oil, about half of the daily flow is processed there. In addition, the plant refines natural gas. In Khurais, Saudi estimates that it is producing about 1.5 million barrels of oil per day.
The Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen have become known for the attack. A Huthi representative claimed on Saturday that the rebels had shot down ten drones on Saudi facilities. Shortly afterwards, however, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo blamed Iran for the “unprecedented attack on global energy supplies.” Tehran was behind almost 100 attacks on Saudi Arabia, tweeted Pompeo. There is no evidence that the attacks were committed on Saturday from Yemen.
Tehran is behind nearly 100 attacks on Saudi Arabia while Rouhani and 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. There is no evidence the attacks came from Yemen.
— Secretary Pompeo (@SecPompeo) September 14, 2019
Tehran rejects allegation
Pompeo thus fueled speculation that the attack may have been perpetrated by either Iran itself or by Shiite militiamen in southern Iraq, allied with hardliners in Tehran. In May, Americans blamed Iran’s allies in Iraq for launching a drone attack on Saudi Arabia. Circles of military observers in the region said that not only drones but also ballistic missiles had been used in the recent attack. The Saudi royal family did not give any details, but spoke only of “projectiles”.
Saudi oil attacks: Iran condemns US 'deceit' after accusation https://t.co/m8oo9qmYea
— BBC News (World) (@BBCWorld) September 15, 2019
The Iraqi government vehemently rejected the speculation. Baghdad resolutely opposes anyone who tries to attack a neighboring country, said Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi. The leadership in Tehran called the allegations nonsensical. Foreign Minister Javad Zarif used it for a broadside against the US Secretary of State. After failing with the “maximum pressure” strategy, Pompeo now set to “maximum deception,” Zarif tweeted.
Having failed at "max pressure", @SecPompeo's turning to "max deceit"
US & its clients are stuck in Yemen because of illusion that weapon superiority will lead to military victory.
Blaming Iran won't end disaster. Accepting our April '15 proposal to end war & begin talks may.
— Javad Zarif (@JZarif) September 15, 2019
Tehran’s denial could be part of the country’s strategy of forcing its henchmen in the area to avoid risking open military exchange with the Americans. There is no doubt that Iran has upgraded Houthi and other militia officers in the region in recent years. On the other hand, that does not mean that the Huthi are pure commanders of the Iranians. On the contrary, they have sufficient grounds for attacking Saudi Arabia, which has been campaigning against them in Yemen for years, and is suffering, in particular, from the civilian population.
In response to this, the Houthi have stepped up to attack the enemy in their own country. They have greatly expanded their arsenal of drones. According to findings of the UN, the rebels now have drones that can hit targets at a distance of more than 1K kilometers. This would theoretically have enabled them to meet the plants in Abkaik and Khurais. Since last year, the Huthi have intensified the drone attacks on Saudi Arabia as well as some of the oil transports. Alone this year, they have already committed dozens of drone strikes on Saudi oilfields and military airports.
Approach from the table
Saudi Minister of Energy Prince Abdelaziz bin Salman, recently appointed, confirmed the devastating consequences of the attack on Sunday. As a result, oil production fell by about 5.7 million barrels, the minister said, This corresponds to a drop in the amount of oil produced on a daily basis by more than half or around 5 percent of global crude oil production. The minister said the kingdom wanted to compensate for the inventory shortfall. Whether this applies only to domestic demand or exports was initially unclear. The “terrorist attacks” would have targeted not only centralized facilities of the kingdom, but also global oil supplies and their security, the minister said. He called on the world of states to fulfill their task of securing the “energy supply against all terrorists who commit, support and finance such cowardly acts of sabotage”. Analysts believe it will take weeks for Saudi Arabia to put the plant back into service in Abkaik. This, in turn, could drive up prices and cloud economic prospects. US President Donald Trump pledged his support to the Saudi.
A possible rapprochement between Washington and Tehran is thus off the table. France had tried to do this in recent weeks. The dismissal of national security adviser John Bolton had even fueled rumors at times that Trump could soon meet his Iranian counterpart Hassan Rohani.
Trump approves release of national oil reserves when needed and threatens retaliation
On Sunday, US President Donald Trump approved the release of national oil reserves in the event of bottlenecks. Based on the attack, “which could affect oil prices,” he approved the release, if necessary, Trump wrote on Sunday evening on Twitter. He has not yet determined the quantity, but it will be sufficient “to supply the markets well”. He also informed the relevant authorities to accelerate the approval procedures for the oil pipelines in Texas and other states.
In addition, Trump threatened the authors with a retaliatory strike and denied at the same time on Sunday evening (local time) on Twitter his own statement that he was ready without preconditions for a meeting with the Iranian leadership.
Trump made no statement as to who the US believes to be the originator of the attack. He wrote on Twitter: “There is reason to believe that we know the culprit.” The US stood gun on foot, but waited for confirmation and information from the Saudi leadership who blamed them for the attack and under what conditions should be proceeded.