Friday, 05 June, 2020


Saudi Arabia's oil pipeline attacked by drones

A motorist holds a fuel pump at a Gulf petrol station in London A motorist holds a fuel pump at a Gulf petrol station in Lond
Bennie Garza | 15 May, 2019, 07:30

Washington and its Gulf allies stopped short of blaming Tehran for what the UAE and Saudi Arabia called the "sabotage" of four ships, including two Saudi oil tankers, on Sunday. Still, instead of going after a larger, closer and more vulnerable target, such as a refinery or oil storage tank, the choice of this pipeline is presumably meant to send a message.

Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih Al-Falih, who called the pipeline attack "cowardly", vowed that production and export of Saudi oil would not be interrupted; however, the news sent US oil prices up 1.4%.

The U.S. already had warned ships that "Iran or its proxies" could be targeting maritime traffic in the region. On Monday, a US official said Iran was a leading candidate for the tanker sabotage but the United States did not have conclusive proof.

Iran's foreign ministry described the incidents as "worrisome and dreadful" and called for an investigation.

The incident comes after the United States announced it was sending an aircraft carrier to the Persian Gulf due to alleged threats from Iran.

Iran and the United States have engaged in a war of words in recent weeks since Tehran began to roll back commitments set out in a landmark 2015 nuclear deal with world powers.

However, U.S. President Donald Trump denied a New York Times report that U.S. officials were discussing a military plan to send up to 120,000 troops to the Middle East to counter any attack or nuclear weapons acceleration by Iran. Saudi Arabia is Iran's regional rival.

In the face of growing global concern, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo scrapped a planned visit to Moscow and headed to Brussels instead for talks Monday with European officials, as Britain warned of the danger of conflict erupting "by accident" in the Gulf. "This might be going down a very risky path".

"We are very anxious about the risk of a conflict happening by accident with an escalation that is unintended really on either side but ends with some kind of conflict", British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said recently.

Al-Falih, the Saudi energy minister, said the attacks on the two Saudi tankers happened at 6 a.m. Sunday.

At the same time, al-Falih did not specify who could have been behind the attack.

"The East-West Crude Oil Pipeline has been attacked by explosive-laden drones", the Beirut-based Al Mayadeen TV channel quotes him as saying.

Falih said the attack was an "act of terrorism" that targeted the world's global oil supply.

There were "no injuries or fatalities on board the vessels" or "spillage of harmful chemicals or fuel", the UAE's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said. They said that they were launched from Sanaa, then changed their statement to say that they were launched from Saudi Arabia. The fourth ship was the A. Michel, a bunkering tanker flagged in Sharjah, one of the UAE's seven emirates.

The Norwegian owners said their vessel sustained a hole in its hull from "an unknown object".

A general view of the port at Fujairah is shown.

His comments resonate with those of the head of the Revolutionary Guard's air force Amir Ali Hajizadeh who called the move a "serious threat" and said that if the U.S. chose to make a move, Iran would be forced to retaliate.

It was created several decades ago as an alternative for Saudi crude exports if the strategically vital Strait of Hormuz at the mouth of the Gulf were to be closed.

There is growing concern that the attacks on oil installations in Saudi Arabia could increase tensions with Iran.

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