How to Iranian-Backed Houthis Strike Saudi Oil Facility

On Sunday 7 March, Yemen’s Houthi rebels attacked an Aramco oil facility in Ras Tanura, a major port on the Persian Gulf coast of Saudi Arabia. Brigadier General. Yahya Saraya, a spokesman for the rebel group, said in a televised statement that ballistic missiles and drones hit the military facility and military positions in nearby Dammam, one of its largest refineries. Saraya said the attack was part of the “natural right” of the Houthis and as a response to the “aggression and total siege of our beloved country” by the Saudis.

An unnamed Energy Ministry official later confirmed the attack to Saudi state media, stating that a petroleum tank farm had been attacked on Sunday morning. According to the official, there were no casualties nor property damage despite the shrapnel falling from the ballistic missile near the residential area of ​​Aramco in Dharan. The statement called the attacks “a violation of all international laws and norms” and said the attack could have an impact on “protecting petroleum exports, freedom of global trade, [and] maritime traffic, as well as exposing coasts and territorial areas” . ” Water for major environmental disasters ”.

This is the latest in a string of Houthi attacks directed and inspired by Iran against the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. On 4 March, three days earlier, Saudi Arabia was subject to several missile attacks, with the Houthis claiming that they had managed to hit the Aramco oil facilities in Jeddah. But there have been many more damaging attacks in the last two years.

In August 2019, drone-fired missiles opened fire in Aramco’s Shayab oil field, and later that month the Houthi rebels fired 10 ballistic missiles at Zijan Airport in southwestern Saudi Arabia, causing dozens of deaths and injuries. In June 2020, a drone and missile attack was carried out at King Khalid Airport and the Ministry of Defense headquarters in Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia. The missile strike in Jeddah took place in November 2020, just days after the Kingdom hosted the G20.

The biggest cause of the attacks was a coordinated strike on Saudi oil infrastructure in Abqiq-Khurais in 2019, which caused significant damage and led to the closure of about 6% of global oil production. It took Aramco 10 days to recover the damage. The sophistication of the attack implies that Iran was deeply involved in the planning and execution of the incident.

The current attack on Ras Tanura, one of the world’s largest oil processing facilities (dealing with about 5 million barrels of oil per day), will have a significant security and economic impact. There was a slight increase in oil prices after the attack on Abqiq-Khoras, but the efforts of Saudi and United States officials eventually stabilized the markets shortly thereafter.

Despite being second only to the United States in total oil production, Saudi Arabia is still the ‘market maker’ for global oil as it exports most of its production, and the government may direct Aramco’s production by Fiat is. Today the Kingdom pumps around 10 million barrels a day and exports most of it. Government revenue accounts for 70% of oil sales and half of the country’s GDP.

The attack would likely result in oil prices above $ 70 per barrel, affecting recovery efforts, as low oil prices have served as a real customer incentive by 2020. This could affect relations between the Biden administration and the rebel group: The Houthis were designated as a foreign terrorist organization by the Trump administration, but last month the Biden administration informed Congress that it planned to reverse the designation , So as to improve the capacity of support groups to reach the Houthi-controlled areas. This latest attack may be delayed.

Ras Tanura is likely that Iran has tested the Biden administration through proxy attacks. Tehran is seen as deteriorating relations between the US and the KSA, along with the killing of Jamal Khashogi, the American Mohammed bin Salman, and the decision to temporarily ban hand sales in Saudi Arabia, including Prince Mohammed. Reports on bin Salman’s assassination are included. As part of a review of Trump policy, arms sales have been halted while the Biden administration reviews arms transactions approved by its predecessor. While this is not uncommon, and many transactions will be approved, President Biden looks likely to fulfill his promise to end US support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen, where the Saudis are in an Iranian-backed conflict The Houthis, along with preventing American weapons from being used for military operations there.

Providing a firm but measured response will be important; To further prepare the way for dialogue while preventing Hothi’s attacks. Such a response should be designed to encourage the Houthis to relinquish their Iranian patronage, stop all military operations against Saudi Arabia, and initiate negotiations with their Yemeni counterparts.

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