image Photo: Reuters

Houthis claim credit for Saudi oil attacks

Yemen’s Iranian-backed Houthi rebels attacked two major Aramco oil plants in Saudi Arabia over the weekend, sparking major blazes and renewed prospects of a wider conflagration. The targets included the world’s largest oil processing facility.

The Islamic Houthi rebels claimed responsibility for some 10 drone strikes in a televised announcement, and pledged to further intensify operations against the American-allied Kingdom. Houthi Military Spokesman Yahya Sarea said, “With the grace of God the great, the air force has completed a wide attack using 10 drones that targeted the sites Abqaiq and Khurais, which are owned by Aramco, in Eastern Saudi Arabia this morning. The damage was precise and direct and was named “the second balanced preemptive strike.”

While the Saudi Interior Ministry announced that it has managed to subdue the raging fires, Aramco gave no immediate timeline as to when normal operations would resume. Multiple reports indicate that a return to full oil production could take “weeks,” rather than days. Saudi Arabia’s state-controlled media is nevertheless insisting that oil exports to meet the global demand would not be affected.

Despite Riyadh’s reluctance to name the culprit of the attack; U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo released a statement on his Twitter account, in which he blamed the Islamic Republic of bearing responsibility. The American top diplomat insisted that “Amid all the calls for deescalation, Iran has now launched an unprecedented attack on the world’s energy supply.” Secretary Pompeo went on to call for “all nations to publicly and unequivocally condemn Iran’s attacks.” He further sought to reassure the international community that “The United States will work with partners and allies to ensure that energy markets remain well supplied and Iran is held accountable for its aggression.”

Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif shot back by accusing his American counterpart of spreading deceit. The Iranian top diplomat also warned that Washington’s qualitative military edge would not lead to victory – and proclaimed that the only way to avoid further disaster is for the White House to accept defeat by immediately retracting its international sanctions and instead advance a diplomatic route with the Islamic Republic.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani voiced an even more hawkish sentiment toward the United States and its allies by declaring,  “If we want to establish real security in this region, the only way is that the U.S. invasion to the region should be over.” Moreover, Rouhani alleged that “Americans, instead of accusing themselves and confessing that their presence in the region, in Syria, in Yemen, and other areas has been problematic, every now and then they accuse the countries in the region and the brave fighters of Yemen.”

U.S. President Donald Trump has announced that if necessary, his administration will release oil from the American Strategic Petroleum Reserve in addition to other unspecified measures, to assure that the global market is well supplied and that oil prices are not severely affected.

While not naming Iran directly, President Trump indicated that an investigation into the perpetrators of the attack is ongoing. He also stated that the U.S. military is “locked and loaded” and awaiting orders on how to proceed based on the outcome of the Saudi-led probe.