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Saudi oil attack part of dangerous new pattern

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The assault on the beating heart of Saudi Arabia's vast oil empire follows a new and dangerous pattern that's emerged across the Persian Gulf this summer of precise attacks that leave few obvious clues as to who launched them.

Beginning in May with the still-unclaimed explosions that damaged oil tankers near the Strait of Hormuz, the region has seen its energy infrastructure repeatedly targeted. Those attacks culminated with Saturday's assault on the world's biggest oil processor in eastern Saudi Arabia, which halved the oil-rich kingdom's production and caused energy prices to spike.

Some strikes have been claimed by Yemen's Houthi rebels, who have been battling a Saudi-led coalition in the Arab world's poorest country since 2015. Their rapidly increasing sophistication fuels suspicion among experts and analysts however that Iran may be orchestrating them — or perhaps even carrying them out itself as the U.S. alleges in the case of Saturday's attack.

"Iran can count on public skepticism to afford it some deniability under any circumstances, but an attack of this magnitude stands a much greater chance of provoking very severe diplomatic and military consequences," warned Michael Knights, a senior fellow at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

For its part, Iran only claimed one attack during this period, the shootdown of a U.S. military surveillance drone it alleges entered its airspace on June 20. It publicly gave medals to the paramilitary Revolutionary Guard members who manned the anti-aircraft battery that downed the drone. It separately has acknowledged seizing oil tankers, the most-prominent one the British-flagged Stena Impero on July 19.

However, the attacks on the oil........

© Japan Today