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Was Iran really behind the attack on Saudi Aramco facilities?

20 6 0

On 14 September, state-owned Saudi Aramco’s oil processing facilities at Abqaiq and Khurais in the Eastern Province were the target of a sophisticated drone and cruise missile attack. The Houthis of Yemen were quick to claim responsibility for “Operation Deterrent Balance 2”, which more than halved Saudi Arabia’s oil output and caused a surge in oil prices by 20 per cent at one point.

If true, this would be their most significant and daring attack in the Kingdom to date. A month ago, they carried out the first “Operation…” using 10 drones against the Shaybah oil fields in south-east Saudi Arabia near the border it shares with the UAE.

Houthi military spokesman Yahya Saree said that new drones had been used, which likely refers to the long-range Samad-3, unveiled officially on 7 July by the Supreme Political Council and named after former Council president Saleh Ali Al-Samad who was killed in a Saudi-led coalition drone strike last year. The same “suicide UAV” Samad-3 was used by the Houthis to strike Abu Dhabi’s International Airport last year.

However, dismissing the Houthi claims, both the Saudis and the US are intent on laying the blame on Iran. Describing the events as an “act of war”, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has stated explicitly that Iran carried out the operation and requested all nations to “unequivocally condemn Iran’s attack”, thus leaving no room for an alternative narrative. US President Donald Trump, meanwhile, has been less keen to label Iran as the perpetrator.

READ: Houthis threaten to renew attacks on Aramco in Saudi Arabia

For its part, Iran has flatly denied the allegation and reiterated Yemen’s right to defend itself against foreign aggression. Moreover, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan implied that Saudi Arabia was to blame for dropping bombs on Yemen in the first place. Close US allies such as Japan and France have also confirmed that there is no actual evidence of direct Iranian involvement; even Gulf neighbour and coalition partner the UAE has not backed the allegation.

Saudi Ministry of Defence spokesman Colonel Turki Al-Malki revealed to the press on Wednesday the wreckage of drones and missiles which he said were fired from the north or north-west. He told reporters that the attacks were “unquestionably sponsored by Iran.” However, when pressed by journalists, he too failed to state explicitly that the attacks emanated from Iranian territory.

One of the most far-fetched claims thus far has been from US investigators suggesting that the Saudis have recovered a “pristine circuit board” from a cruise missile retrieved from the attack site. This is reminiscent of the claims that one of the 9/11 hijackers’ passports survived........

© Middle East Monitor