A drone attack on Saudi oil facilities claimed by Yemen’s Houthi rebels prompted Washington to blame Tehran, with US warhawk, Senator Lindsey Graham, calling for a strike against Iran.
The smoke from the huge fires at the world’s largest oil processing plant caused by the strike had barely dissipated when officials in Washington jumped at the opportunity to use the occasion to push an anti-Iranian agenda.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo blamed Tehran for what he called “an unprecedented attack on the world’s energy supply” but stopped short of suggesting any retaliatory measures.
Meanwhile Graham was quick to turn to Twitter to call for swift retaliation.
The senator linked the need to stop Iran’s alleged “provocations” to the seemingly ultimate goal of Washington’s policy toward Tehran – regime change – as he said that the Islamic Republic would not stop until the consequences of its “misbehavior” would be “more real, like attacking their refineries, which will break the regime’s back.”
Riyadh denounced the drone strike as a “terrorist attack” but did not immediately name a perpetrator. Houthis claimed responsibility for the Saturday morning assault, which resulted in massive blazes at the refinery in the city of Abqaiq in the kingdom’s oil-rich Eastern Province and another facility at the vast Khurais oil field, around 150km (93 miles) from Riyadh.
US President Donald Trump has already phoned Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and offered help to the Kingdom in ensuring its security. He also said that the attack on the Saudi oil facilities could be detrimental to the American and the global economy.
The International Energy Agency (IEA) said, though, that the attack is unlikely to affect the global oil markets as they are “well supplied with ample commercial stocks.” Yet, it also said it is closely monitoring the situation and is in contact with the Saudis and “major producer and consumer nations.”
The IEA statement came amid media reports that the attack forced Riyadh to cut oil production by as much as 5 million barrels a day, which is equivalent to roughly half of its total oil output and about five percent of the global oil supply.
The Saturday attack has become the most successful strike the Houthis have launched against the Saudis, who have been leading a bombing campaign in Yemen since it intervened in the nation’s civil war in 2015. In May, armed drones caused minor damage to two Saudi Aramco state oil companies’ pumping stations in the Eastern Province.At that time, Riyadh blamed Iran for the attack, which was claimed by the Yemeni rebels as well. Tehran denied the allegations.
The Saudi-led coalition’s military campaign in Yemen has itself been repeatedly criticized by the UN and various international human rights groups, which repeatedly pointed to the mass civilian casualties resulting from the coalition’s airstrikes.