The United Kingdom has had troops deployed in Saudi Arabia to protect its oilfields from attacks since February this year, The News reported this week, a local newspaper in Portsmouth in the UK. A small team from the 16th Regiment Royal Artillery, which is based near Portsmouth, were sent to Saudi Arabia to man Giraffe radars, which can track aircraft and missiles up to 75 miles away.
After the report, the UK Ministry of Defence confirmed that the mission was to protect oilfields in Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest oil exporter, from attacks, in the wake of the September 2019 attacks on critical Saudi oil infrastructure that affected half of Saudi Arabia’s oil production, or around 5 percent of global oil supply, for weeks.
The Saudi oilfields that UK troops help to protect are “critical economic infrastructure,” the UK Ministry of Defence told The Independent.
“Following the attacks on the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s oil production facilities on 14 September 2019, we have worked with the Saudi Ministry of Defence and wider international partners to consider how to strengthen the defense of its critical economic infrastructure from aerial threats,” a spokesperson for the Ministry of Defence told The Independent.
Opposition parties in the UK criticized the government for not only providing assistance to Saudi Arabia but for also failing to adequately inform the public and Parliament of the mission.
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The report about UK troops helping to protect Saudi oilfields from attacks emerged just after the Houthi rebels in Yemen on Monday said they had fired a missile against a target in the Saudi city of Jeddah and had hit it. The target was a distribution center property of Saudi Arabia’s state oil company Aramco.
Saudi Arabia confirmed on Monday, via its Saudi Press Agency, that there was an explosion at the petroleum products distribution terminal in Jeddah.
On Wednesday, OPEC criticized the attack on the Jeddah facility, with OPEC Secretary-General Mohammad Barkindo saying, “Acts of sabotage such as this are detrimental to energy supply security for both producers and consumers and can lead to much uncertainty and volatility.”
By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com
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Therefore, Saudi Arabia is well urged to end the war in Yemen and reach a peaceful settlement with Al Houthis and by extension with Iran. Saudi Arabia is spending a lot of money it can ill afford on the Yemen war at a time of low oil prices and declining oil revenues.
Furthermore, any political differences between Saudi Arabia and Iran could be resolved easily by negotiations. Therefore, Saudi Arabia is urged to extend a hand of friendship to Iran and build a bridge of trust between them. Such a rapprochement will save Saudi Arabia hundreds of billions of dollars wasted on arms deals.
The United States has always used alleged threats from Iran against Saudi Arabia and the Gulf Arab States to blackmail them for protection money like the Mafia and to sell expensive weapons to them.
Saudi Arabia should take the initiative vis-à-vis Iran before President-elect Biden starts to ease tension with Iran and ends the US support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen.
Dr Mamdouh G Salameh
International Oil Economist
Visiting Professor of Energy Economics at ESCP Europe Business School, London