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The Houthi rebels in Yemen were not the ones who launched the drone and missile attack on Saudi oil infrastructure last September, a confidential report from the UN has revealed.
Reuters, who saw the report, quoted its authors from the UN Security Council Yemen sanctions committee as saying “That despite their claims to the contrary, the Houthi forces did not launch the attacks on Abqaiq and Khurais on 14 September 2019.”
These findings will lend strength to U.S. and Saudi claims that the attacks originated in Iran, even though some disputed the evidence that the Saudi military presented for this claim. The U.S. and Saudi Arabia blamed Iran for the attacks soon after September 14, and Iran vigorously denied any responsibility.
The drone and missile attacks caused a fire at the Abqaiq oil processing facility and a production outage at the Khurais field, taking 5.7 million bpd in daily production offline. This caused a temporary spike in oil prices as Aramco struggled to restore production as quickly as possible.
At the time, media reported that the White House had ordered the Pentagon to plan several alternatives for a response to the Saudi attacks. However, President Trump warned that steps were not to be taken before Riyadh decided how to respond to the attacks.
"No knee jerk reactions to this - it's very systematic - what happens with patience is it prevents stupid moves," an unnamed source familiar with the discussions told CNN a week after the attack.
Related: The Real Reason The U.S. Is Interested In Iran
Indeed there were no knee jerk reactions to the attacks, but the report from the UN Security Council Yemen sanctions committee comes at a time of much heightened tension between the United States and Iran. Interestingly enough, an earlier media report on their work said they had been unable to corroborate Iran’s involvement in the attacks.
In December, the BBC reported on a leaked report compiled by the UN Secretary General, which said the investigators from the Security Council Yemen sanctions committee had failed to confirm that the drones and missiles used in the Saudi attacks were made in Iran.
Now, according to the report Reuters had seen, “The panel notes that Abqaiq and Khurais were approached respectively from a north/northwestern and north/northeastern direction, rather than from the south, as one would expect in the case of a launch from Yemeni territory.”
The investigators also said they doubted the missiles “have a sufficient range to have been launched from Yemeni territory under the control of the Houthis.”
By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com
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Irina is a writer for Oilprice.com with over a decade of experience writing on the oil and gas industry.
Interestingly enough, an earlier media report said that the UN had been unable to corroborate Iran’s involvement in the attacks. And another report by the BBC in December on a leaked report compiled by the UN Secretary General said the investigators from the Security Council Yemen sanctions committee had failed to confirm that the drones and missiles used in the Saudi attacks were made in Iran.
There is something fishy when three entities have looked on what appears to be the same UN Security Council Yemen Sanctions report and came out with different conclusions.
What, however, lends truth to the Houthis claim is that they have previously and successfully hit Saudi military and oil targets including disabling in June 2019 the pumping station that fills the Petroline (or East-West Pipeline), which runs across Saudi Arabia from the oil fields in the East to the Red Sea in the West at the Yanbu port.
Iran could have supplied them with drones and missiles capable of reaching their targets.
Dr Mamdouh G Salameh
International Oil Economist
Visiting Professor of Energy Economics at ESCP Europe Business School, London