Yemen’s Houthis: Saudi Oil Remains a Target
Houthis say they did Saturday attack, will do more
(September 16, 2019) — On Saturday night, drones attacked a Saudi oil infrastructure site, causing fires and knocking out some oil supply. Though the US was blaming Iran almost immediately, Yemen’s Shi’ite Houthi movement insisted that they were behind the attack.
Saudi Arabia has been invading Yemen, and the Houthis in particular, for several years, and the Houthis presented this as a retaliatory action for the Saudis’ strikes. Iran, by contrast, has denied having anything to do with it.
The Houthis may be worth paying attention to, however, even if the preference is to blame Iran. This is both because the Saudis have proven unable to prevent these strikes, and because the Houthis have promised to keep launching attacks on Saudi oil infrastructure.
A Houthi statement urged foreigners to leave areas around Saudi Aramco facilities, saying more attacks could come “at any moment.” The Saudi air defenses could be facing more challenges.
And even though the Saudis have the third largest military spending in the world, and access to myriad US-made air defense system, they don’t seem to have an answer for drone attacks. They had been able to intercept Houthi-fired missiles at least sometimes, but the drones are almost certainly both lower cost, and so far very effective, which points to them being used a lot more.
Saudi Oil Facilities are in Range of Houthi Drones
(September 16, 2019) — Two unnamed US officials told reporters on Sunday that there was “no doubt” Iran was behind Saturday’s attacks on two key oil facilities inside Saudi Arabia. The officials said the Houthis of Yemen, who claimed responsibility, could not have pulled it off because of the scope and precision of the attacks. Despite the official’s claims, the Saudi oil facilities that were attacked are in range of the Houthi’s drones.
One official said, “The Houthis have never struck this far afield in the past because we don’t think that they have that capability. And the Houthis have never struck in this precise and coordinated fashion before.”
The Abqaiq oil facility that was struck over the weekend lies just over 730 miles from the Houthi-controlled city of Sa’dah. The second target, the Khurais oil facility, is just over 640 miles from Sa’dah. These locations are certainly within range of the Houthi’s drones, which UN investigators believeto be over 900 miles.
The Houthis have been launching similar attacks over the past few months on Saudi oil infrastructure. In August, they launched a successful drone strike on the Shaybah oil field, which is over 750 miles from Sa’dah.
Sa’dah is not necessarily where these attacks are launched from, it is just one of the more northern cities the Houthis control. There is territory further east under Houthi control that is closer to all of these targets.
As far as the precision of the attacks, the Houthis demonstrated the precision of their drones in an attack on a military parade inside Yemen back in January. The Houthis specifically targeted and hit a platform where high-ranking military officers were sitting. The attack killed six soldiers and wounded several senior officers.
Saudi Arabia said on Monday that the attacks were done with Iranian weapons and were not launched from Yemen. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made a similar claim in a tweet on Saturday when he said, “There is no evidence the attacks came from Yemen.”
A congressional source told NBC that there is a bipartisan consensus in Washington that the attacks came from Iran. “This attack had a level of sophistication we have not seen before,” the source said. “You will not see Democrats pushing back on the idea that Iran was behind it.” NBC also reported that three unnamed US officials said there was compelling evidence showing the origin of the attacks.
Senator Christopher Coons (D-Del.) appeared on Fox & Friends Monday morning to discuss the attack on Saudi Arabia’s oil facilities. “This may well be the thing that calls for military action against Iran if that’s what the intelligence supports,” Coons said. The Senator also made the claim that the Houthis don’t have the “sort of advanced drones that carried out” the attack.
No evidence has been presented to the public by the Saudis or any US officials to confirm the attacks did not originate from Yemen. On Monday, Houthi military spokesman Yayha Sarea said oil facilities in Saudi Arabia are a still a target and can be attacked at “any moment.” Sarea called on Saudi Arabia to stop its “aggression and blockade” on Yemen.
Houthi Drones Set Saudi Oil Field Afire in Earlier Attack on August 19, 2019
(August 19, 2019) — A drone attack by the Yemeni Houthis caused fire at an oil and gas field in Saudi Arabia, the Kingdom’s Energy Minister said as quoted by the Saudi Press Agency.
Khalid al-Falih also said the damage caused by the explosive-laden drones was limited to a processing unit of the natural gas processing plant at the Shaybah field.
The Yemeni rebel group had earlier said it was using 10 drones to attack the Shaybah field in what they said was the “biggest attack in the depths” of Saudi Arabia yet, as per a Reuters report on the event. The Shaybah field lies about 600 miles from the Houthi-controlled parts of Yemen.
The Saudi Press Agency quoted Al-Falih as referring to the event as a “terroristic attack” and noting it had resulted in no casualties and had had no effect on Saudi oil and gas production or exports.
The minister also said, as quoted by the SPA, that “these attacks not only target Saudi Arabia, but also the global energy security of supply and through that the global economy, demonstrating once again the imperative for the global community to confront all terrorist entities that carry out such acts of sabotage, including the Houthi militias in Yemen.”
This is by far not the first attack on Saudi oil and gas infrastructure by the Iran-affiliated Houthi rebels. Earlier this year, the group said it had a list of 300 military targets in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, including oil and gas infrastructure.
Following this Saturday’s attack, the leader of the Houthis said “The drone operation today is an important warning to the Emirates,” as quoted by an Iran-affiliated news website.
Saudi Arabia, in coalition with the UAE, and Iran are essentially fighting a proxy war in Yemen, where the Saudis lead a military Arab coalition to “restore legitimacy” in the country, while the Houthi movement, which holds the capital Sanaa, is backed by Iran.
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