Latest update on the Saudi oil attacks
Tensions in the Middle East have escalated following drone attacks on two major oil facilities in Saudi Arabia. The pre-dawn attacks on Saturday knocked out more than half of crude output from the world’s top exporter – five per cent of the global oil supply – and cut output by 5.7 million barrels per day. This is a clear act of aggression by the perpetrator towards Saudi Arabia, that has expectedly caused a source of outrage. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo immediately accused Iran of being behind the assault, without providing any evidence. The claim was rejected by Tehran which said the allegations were meant to justify actions against it. Saudi Arabia, meanwhile, has promised to “confront and deal with this terrorist aggression”, while US President Donald Trump hinted at possible military action after Riyadh concluded its investigation into the attacks. Furthermore, a Saudi defence spokesman at a high-profile press conference claimed that a total of 25 drones and cruise missiles were used in the attack on the Aramco facilities on Saturday, saying repeatedly they had been fired from the north, the direction of Iran. The accusations of Iran from both Saudi Arabia and the US are worrying signs that a conflict between the 2 regional powers and even the US is approaching.
The US responds aggressively towards Iran
In addition to Saudi Arabia, the US has responded aggressively towards Iran after the attacks, starting by swiftly blaming the nation for the strikes. President Trump said Wednesday that his administration would be announcing sanctions on Iran “over the next 48 hours.” He also said that his “thinking pretty much remains the same” on the recent attack on Saudi Arabia. Trump, speaking on a Los Angeles tarmac alongside his new national security adviser, Robert O’Brien, said the US is monitoring the situation in the Middle East closely, adding, “My thinking pretty much remains the same and we haven’t learned much that we didn’t know.” The latter statement does show, however, that there is a sign of hope, as Trump does not appear surprised by the attacks. However, the President’s comments sparked immediate uncertainty over whether he was being serious or whether this tension-raising tweet was — like a similar warning once aimed at North Korea a risky negotiating tactic. It is unclear whether his “locked and loaded” phraseology threatens military force against Iran, its proxies in Iraq or Yemen or some kind of US response that stops short of retaliatory attacks. Only time will tell, but the situation only seems to be getting worse.
Likelihood of war increasing
As the reactions of Saudi Arabia and the US reflect the magnitude of the event, the likelihood of war in the region has now substantially increased. Tensions between Iran and the US have come to the most dangerous point yet since US President Donald Trump abandoned the Iran nuclear deal in May 2018. The role of Iran in the war between Yemen Houthi rebels and Saudi Arabia coalition, in particular, has become hugely controversial as it affects the global oil market. With the support of Iranian drones and missiles, Houthis have attacked different spots in Saudi Arabia, including airports, oil pipelines and installations. This week’s destructive attack on Aramco oil facilities immediately impacted on the oil market with an unprecedented increase in oil price and fall in Saudi oil production. Riyadh, London and Washington have all accused Iran of being behind these attacks and have warned about a military reaction. Furthermore, Iran is struggling with a major economic crisis and is retaliating by flaunting its military power in the region. It’s clear that the risk of war between the two countries has escalated more than ever before, with US officials discussing a military response and Iran’s generals openly talking about “full-scale war”.