“I’m somebody that would like not to have war,” U.S. President Donald Trump told media following a tweet in which he said the U.S. was “locked and loaded” to respond to a drone attack on Saudi oil infrastructure that sent markets into a frenzy.
Trump, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and Energy Secretary Rick Perry all blamed Iran for the attack despite a statement from the Iran-affiliated Houthi rebels in Yemen who took responsibility for the attacks that cut an estimated 5.7 million bpd in production capacity from global supply.
The investigation into who launched the attacks is still in progress but, according to Trump, it looks like Iran was behind it, Reuters reports.
“We have a lot of options but I’m not looking at options right now. We want to find definitively who did this,” the U.S. president said.
The attacks hit a Saudi oil field and a processing facility in Saturday. A day later, Trump tweeted: “Saudi Arabia oil supply was attacked. There is reason to believe that we know the culprit, are locked and loaded depending on verification, but are waiting to hear from the Kingdom as to who they believe was the cause of this attack, and under what terms we would proceed!”
Iran has denied the accusations, with a spokesman for the Foreign Ministry calling them “unacceptable and entirely baseless.” Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani said the attacks were carried out by Yemenis in response to Saudi-led attacks.
“Yemeni people are exercising their legitimate right of defense,” Rouhani said on Monday. A day earlier, the Houthis took responsibility for the attack, warning that more would follow. In May this year, the Iran-affiliated group said they were launching a major offensive that would target more than 300 locations in both Saudi Arabia and the UAE—the coalition partners fighting the Houthis on behalf of Yemen’s elected president, which the rebels ousted.
By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com
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President Trump should get his facts right before accusing Iran of being behind the drone attacks that damaged Saudi oil installations and cut Saudi oil production by 5.7 million barrels a day (mbd). War with Iran will not be an easy ride. As in Iraq before, he may win the military battles with his overwhelming military assets but end up losing the war including having thousands of US troops inside the US Embassy in Baghdad and in Deir ez-Zur in Syria taken prisoners or killed by Iran’s militia in addition to saying bye to America’s national interests in the Middle East and seeing Saudi oil installations totally destroyed sending oil prices beyond $140 a barrel.
The Houthis of Yemen armed with Iranian drones and missiles have proven in the past their capability by targeting successfully Saudi military and oil installations. The latest attack on Aramco’s processing station of Abquig and the Khurais oilfield are no exception.
The next target for Houthis could be the Saudi loading terminal of Ras Tannura, the world’s biggest. A successful strike at Ras Tannura could totally cripple Saudi oil exports and plunge the world in a major oil crisis.
Saudi leaders are well advised to cut their losses and end the war on Yemen and reach some accommodation with the Houthis if they are to avoid painful strikes on their oil installations. They should by now realize that they could never win the war in Yemen.
Dr Mamdouh G Salameh
International Oil Economist
Visiting Professor of Energy Economics at ESCP Europe Business School, London