Saudi Arabia has prevented yet another attack by the Yemeni Houthis, this time in the city of Jazan, which is home to extensive Aramco oil infrastructure.
Reuters reported the Saudi-led coalition that is fighting the Houthis in Yemen had destroyed four Houthi drones laden with explosives and also a ballistic rocket fired at Jazan, where Aramco operates a 400,000-bpd refinery that is often targeted by Houthi attacks.
In April this year, the Saudis stopped another attack on Jazan from happening, intercepting five ballistic missiles and four drones launched at the oil city, which is about 60 km from the border with Yemen, which makes it a logical target.
Recently, these attacks appear to have become more frequent. Just last week, another Houthi attack put Aramco on lockdown in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Region.
Aramco oil facilities are understandably a preferred target for the Houthis, which Saudi Arabia is trying to oust from Yemen after they removed the Saudi-affiliated government of the country in 2014 and has since then assumed power in most of Yemen. The Yemeni war, which has resulted in the worst humanitarian crisis in modern times, is widely seen as a proxy war between regional rivals Saudi Arabia and Iran.
While the Saudi forces intercept most of the drones and missiles the Houthis launch at targets in the Kingdom, some do get through. The most notable one so far was an attack that took place two years ago and took off 5 percent of global daily oil supply offline as the missiles hit an oil field and a processing plant. While the Houthi rebels took responsibility for the attack, the Saudis and their U.S. partners blamed Iran, which backs the Houthis.
With Aramco oil infrastructure a primary target for the rebel group, these attacks have the potential capacity to disrupt oil markets again at a time when prices are already sensitive enough due to other factors such as the pandemic.
By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com
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And with the United States withdrawing its anti-missile defence systems from Saudi Arabia, the Saudis shouldn’t expect the United States to come to their defence.
The United States withdrawal debacle from Afghanistan has alarmed Saudi Arabia and other Gulf States and marked a major turning point for global geopolitics. It was a great blow to the prestige of the United States. The strategic winners were China and Russia.
In view of the above, the House of Saud should reconsider seriously its historic relations with the United States, a link that has overwhelmingly benefited the United States financially and geopolitically since 1945. Saudi Arabia should therefore rearrange its priorities including pivoting towards the rising powers in the world, namely China and Russia.
One has only to look at Iraq, Iran, Venezuela and the Arab Gulf to see that the China-Russia-Iran strategic alliance is gaining momentum and influence by the day at the expense of the floundering US-UAE-Israel-India axis.
Dr Mamdouh G Salameh
International Oil Economist
Visiting Professor of Energy Economics at ESCP Europe Business School, London