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Irina Slav

Irina Slav

Irina is a writer for Oilprice.com with over a decade of experience writing on the oil and gas industry.

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New Iranian Attack On Saudi Oil Is ''Very Possible''

Despite the buildup of U.S. military presence in the Persian Gulf, Iran may “attack again,” the chief of the U.S. Central Command, General Kenneth McKenzie told Foreign Policy in an interview.

“I think the strike on Saudi Aramco in September is pretty indicative of a nation that is behaving irresponsibly,” Gen. McKenzie said. “My judgment is that it is very possible they will attack again.” 

The top official was referring to the drone and missile attacks on a Saudi oil field and a processing plant that took almost 5.7 million bpd of production capacity offline. At the time, the Houthi rebels in Yemen claimed responsibility for the attacks but the United States and the Saudis both claimed that the missiles were launched from Iran, although the evidence presented did not convince everyone. Now, Foreign Policy has called the attacks “Iran-sponsored”—the Houthis enjoy Iran’s financial and political backing in the Yemen proxy war.

“I wouldn’t discount anything from Iran,” Gen. McKenzie also said in his interview with Foreign Policy. “When a nation behaves that irresponsibly, you have to be very cautious when you evaluate what they might do in the future.” He stopped short of adding any specific threats that Iran might make on the region.

The U.S. military presence in the Gulf was boosted earlier this year, after several attacks on tankers that, again, Washington blamed on Iran but Iran rejected any involvement.

Following the attacks, insurance rates for oil tankers carrying Middle Eastern oil through the Strait of Hormuz shot up, increasing shipping costs and swelling oil prices because of the heightened risk of passing through the Strait of Hormuz. The U.S. and the UK quickly made up a coalition to protect tankers in the Gulf. The coalition, dubbed Operation Sentinel, uses “elaborate overhead intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance architecture” to keep track of vessel movement in the Gulf.

“Since the [coalition] has begun over the last couple of months we have been able to move stuff through the Strait of Hormuz pretty much without interference,” Gen. McKenzie said.

By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com

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  • Mamdouh Salameh on November 25 2019 said:
    Saudi oil infrastructure is hostage to Iran’s allies the Houthis of Yemen. Therefore future attacks on Saudi Aramco’s oil installations can’t be ignored as long as the War in Yemen is going on and relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran are antagonistic.

    The new international coalition for maritime security in the Gulf region dubbed Operation Sentinel will fail because the United States is globally perceived as the source of trouble in the Gulf region and also because there is growing disenchantment of it in the Middle East.

    Furthermore, the Strait of Hormuz is under the sovereignty of Iran and Oman. According to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, states bordering straits may adopt laws and regulation relating to transit passage through straits regarding the safety of navigation and regulation of maritime traffic. It is not therefore surprising that neither country has welcomed the presence of an international coalition.

    The United States is solely responsible for aggravating the situation in the Gulf by walking away from the nuclear deal with Iran and imposing sanctions against it. It is escalating tension in the Gulf further by building up its military presence there. The logical thing is, therefore, for the United States to withdraw altogether from the Gulf region leaving the security of the Strait of Hormuz to the two countries entrusted under the UN Convention of the Law of the Sea with protecting it.

    Security in the Gulf region and the freedom of navigation across the Strait of Hormuz will be far better assured with a withdrawal of the United States altogether from the Gulf region.

    Dr Mamdouh G Salameh
    International Oil Economist
    Visiting Professor of Energy Economics at ESCP Europe Business School, London

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