The Crisis Over The Attack On Saudi Oil Infrastructure Is Over - We Now Wait For the Next One
Moon of Alabama,
20 September, 2019
The crisis about the Yemeni drone and cruise missile attack on two Saudi oil installations is for now over.
The Saudis and the U.S. accuse Iran of being behind the "act of war" as Secretary of State Pompeo called it. The Saudis have bombed Yemen with U.S. made bombs since 2015. One wonders how Pompeo is calling that.
The Yemeni forces aligned with the Houthi Ansarallah do not deny that their drones and cruise missiles are copies of Iranian designs. But they insist that they are built in Yemen and fired from there.
President Trump will not launch a military attack against Iran. Neither will the Saudis or anyone else. Iran has deterred them by explaining that any attack on Iran will be responded to by waging all out war against the U.S. and its 'allies' around the Persian Gulf.
Trump sent Pompeo to Saudi Arabia to hold hands with the Saudi gangster family who call themselves royals. Pompeo of course tried to sell them more weapons. On his flight back he had an uncharacteristically dovish Q & A with reporters. Pompeo said:
I was here in an act of diplomacy. While the foreign minister of Iran is threatening all-out war and to fight to the last American, we’re here to build out a coalition aimed at achieving peace and a peaceful resolution to this. That’s my mission set, what President Trump certainly wants me to work to achieve, and I hope that the Islamic Republic of Iran sees it the same way. There’s no evidence of that from his statement, but I hope that that’s the case.
The crisis is over and we are back to waiting for the next round. A few days or weeks from now we will see another round of attacks on oil assets on the western side of the Persian Gulf. Iran, with the help of its friends, can play this game again and again and it will do so until the U.S. gives up and lifts the sanctions against that country.
The Houthi will continue to attack the Saudis until they end their war on Yemen and pay reparations.
As long as no U.S. forces get killed the U.S. will not hit back because Trump wants to be reelected. An all out war around the Persian Gulf would drive energy prices into the stratosphere and slump the global economy. His voters would not like that.
In our earlier pieces on the Abqaiq attack we said that the attacked crude oil stabilization plant in Abquaq had no air defense. Some diligent researchers have since found that there was a previously unknown Patriot air-defense unit in the area which was itself protected by several short range air-defense cannons:
Michael Duitsman @DuitsyWasHere - 7:02 UTC · Sep 18, 2019
On paper, the point air defenses at the Abqaiq oil processing facility are rather formidable... by 1995 standards, at least.
A battery of Shahine SAMs (French system from the early 1980's)
3 or 4 anti-aircraft gun sections, each with 2 twin 35mm cannons and a fire control unit
There is also the oddity that the Patriot unit's radar system was shut off.
Putin is a Virus @PutinIsAVirus - 4:53 UTC · Sep 19, 2019
No patriot radars have been active in recent months (at least not consistently) in the vicinity of the plant, not in the short range required to detect low flying cruise missiles or drones. Closest installation is in Barhain.
(using Sentinel 1 CSAR sat for detection)
The explanation for that is likely rather trivial. Colonel Pat Lang was stationed in Saudi Arabia as a military liaison officer. As he recently remarked:
Never underestimate the feckless laziness of the Saudis. In my experience they turn off all ATC and air defense systems that require manning or watch keeping when they find them inconvenient as on the weekend. IMO if Ansarallah did this they will do something similar soon to prove they are responsible.
Abqaiq was attacked on the night of Friday to Saturday. That is the weekend in Saudi Arabia.
The U.S. says it has “damning evidence” that exposes “Iran” as the culprit in the “Saudi Aramco” attacks last weekend.
American officials say the evidence proves Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khomenei “personally ordered the strikes. This as Washington makes the case for war. A Pentagon spokesman told reporters today that the U.S. will allow Saudi Arabia to make the official announcement as to who was responsible for the attacks and from whence they originated.
Meanwhile, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson wants President Trump to go after a “diplomatic” response to the crisis. He says that as the Royal Air Force bombs Iranian positions along the Syria-Iraq border—alongside the Israeli Air Force.
Also today, in an interview with CNN, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif made a “very serious statement” about any possible military response from Saudi Arabia or the U.S, adding it would lead to “all-out war”:
“I make a very serious statement about defending our country. I am making a very serious statement that we don’t want war. We don’t want to engage in a military confrontation. We believe that a military confrontation based on deception is … awful. We’ll have a lot of casualties. But we won’t blink to defend our territory.”
And now DEBKAfile is reporting that Iran’s Major General Qasem Soleimani, has traveled to Baghdad to meet with the heads of pro-Iranian Shi’ite militas and former Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki. According to that report:
“Our sources reveal their two subjects of discussion:
The Iraqi militias’ response in the event of a US and/or Saudi assault on Iran in retaliation for its attacks on major Saudi oil facilities on Saturday.
The military action the Iraqi militias would take against Israel as payback for its constant air and missile strikes against Iran’s bases in Syria and Iraq.
“Our sources name the militia leaders in talks with Soleimani as Hadi al-Amiri, former chief of the Badr Brigades, Falah al-Fayyad, supreme commander of the Popular Mobilization Units and his deputy Abu Mahdi Muhandis. Al Maliki, a highly influential figure in Iraq’s Shiite south, warned Israel in late August that of “a strong response” if it continued to attack Iranian targets.
“Soleimani’s consultations in Baghdad continue at present. They run parallel to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s talks in Jeddah with Saudi royal leaders on how to respond to the crippling attacks on their oil infrastructure.”
(Photo Credit: Munich Security Conference)
From Pepe Escobar
Authored by Federico Pieraccini via The Strategic Culture Foundation:
On Saturday September 14, Yemen’s Houthi rebels announced that they had conducted a massive attack on several Aramco plants in Saudi Arabia, including the largest oil refinery in the world in Abqaiq, using 10 drones. On Twitter, dozens of videos and photos showed explosions, flames and the resulting damage.
The move is part of a retaliatory campaign by the Houthis in response to the indiscriminate bombings conducted by the Saudi air force over more than four years. UN estimates speak of more than 100,000 deaths and the largest humanitarian crisis since the Second World War.
The Saudi kingdom finds itself in an increasingly dangerous situation as a result of the retaliatory capacity of the Houthis, able to inflict severe military and economic damage on Riyadh with their missile forces. Estimates suggest that Riyadh is losing something in the region of $300 million a day from the Houthi attacks. On Sunday September 15, a spokesman for the Saudi oil ministry spoke of damage that is yet to be calculated, possibly requiring weeks of repair. Meanwhile, Saudi oil production has halved following the Saturday attack. With a military budget of $200,000, the Houthis managed to inflict damage numbering in the billions of dollars.
House of Saud Isolated
The withdrawal of Egypt and the United Arab Emirates from the conflict in Yemen, driven by their desire to improve relations with Tehran, and the impossibility of the United States intervening directly in the conflict, has created significant problems for the House of Saud. The conflict is considered by the UN to be the largest humanitarian crisis in the world, and Trump has no intention of giving the Democratic presidential contenders any ammunition with which to attack him. Bolton’s dismissal could be one of those Trump signals to the deep state stating that he does not intend to sabotage his re-election hopes in 2020 by starting a new war.
This reluctance by Washington to directly support Israel and Saudi Arabia has aggravated the situation for Riyadh, which now risks seeing the conflict move to its own territory in the south of the country. The Houthi incursions into Saudi Arabia are now a daily event, and as long as Riyadh continues to commit war crimes against innocent Yemeni civilians, the situation will only worsen, with increasingly grave consequences for the internal stability of the Saudi system.
Saturday’s retaliation is the real demonstration of what could happen to the Saudi economy if Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) refuses to sit down and negotiate a way out of one of the worst military disasters of the contemporary era.
The invincibility of US weapons systems is only in Hollywood movies
The Houthis have in recent months managed to strike their targets in Saudi Arabia dozens of times using different aerial means. This highlights once again the total failure of American air-defense systems in the country.
In contrast, the multiple Russian anti-aircraft systems in Syria have achieved a 100% success rate with regard to interceptions, managing to disable (through electronic warfare) all the drones, mortars and missiles launched by jihadists against Russia’s bases in Tartus bases and Latakia.
Pompeo blames Tehran for the Yemeni attack on Saudi Arabia, of course without offering any proof. Riyadh and Tel Aviv are increasingly isolated in the Middle East. Washington is only able to offer tweets and paranoia about Iran to help its allies, given that a direct intervention is seen as being too risky for the global economy, not to mention the possibility of the conflict becoming a wider regional conflagration that would sink any chance of reelection in 2020 for the present administration.
Trump, Netanyahu and MBS are concocting a witches’ brew that will bring about a disaster of unprecedented proportions to the region. It is only a matter of time before we see the baleful consequences of their handiwork.
A hypothesis to be discarded
There is some talk doing the rounds that the Saudis conducted a false-flag attack on their own oil refineries, a hypothesis that enjoys a superficial plausibility. The resulting increase in the price of oil could be seen as having a positive effect on Aramco’s share price, it is true. But for the reasons given below, this hypothesis is actually not plausible.
The Houthis develop their own weapons, assisted by the Yemeni army. Used drones would cost less than $20,000 a piece. The military embargo on Yemen (enforced by the US and UK) has created a humanitarian disaster, limiting food and medicine. The delivery of weapons by sea therefore seems unlikely. As repeatedly stated by Mohammad Javad Zarif, the foreign minister of Iran, as well as representatives of Ansarullah, Tehran has no influence on the Houthis.
The Yemeni response is part of an increasing asymmetric logic, which has as its primary objectives the halt to Riyadh’s bombings of Yemen by increasing the costs of doing so such that they become unsustainable. The obvious pressure point is the 20 billion barrels in strategic reserves.
There is no need for a false flag to blame Iran for the work of the Houthis. The corporate media is enough to have the false accusations repeated without the help of the Israelis or US-based neocons.
The Saudis are more cautious, even if unable to decide how to proceed. In Yemen, they have no more cards to play: they do not want to sit down and deal with Ansarullah, Tehran is unassailable, while Tel Aviv is pushing for a conflict, with Riyadh offered to be sacrificed.
I have been writing for months that, sooner or later, an event will occur that will change the regional balance in a possible conflict with Iran. This happened on Saturday, when half of Saudi Arabia’s oil production was brought to a halt by an attack.
There could not be any worse news for the neocons, Wahhabis and Zionists. If the Houthis could inflict such damage using 10 drones, then Tel Aviv, Riyadh and Washington must be having conniptions at the thought of what the Iranians would be capable of doing in the event that they themselves were attacked.
Any power (in this case the US and their air-defense systems) and its close ally would do everything to avoid suffering such a humiliation that would only serve to reveal their military vulnerabilities.
Meanwhile, Netanyahu’s visit to Moscow is seen by many in Israel as a failure. It is confirmed in Tel Aviv that the Zionist state’s recent attacks in Syria have been quashed by Russian intervention, sending an unambiguous message to Netanyahu.
Netanyahu and MBS, I reiterate, are heading towards the political abyss. And given their inability to handle the situation, they will do everything in their power to draw Washington into their plans against Iran.
It is all certainly vain. But in the coming weeks, I expect further provocations and tensions in the Middle East.