International community probes drone attacks on Saudi oil sites, denounces perpetrators
The international community is rallying to hold accountable the perpetrators of the September 14, 2019, drone attacks on oil facilities in Saudi Arabia that spiked global oil prices.
The United Nations dispatched an international team of experts to Saudi Arabia to investigate, according to U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, The Associated Press (AP) reported. U.S. Central Command also sent forensic specialists to contribute to Saudi Arabia’s assessment, according to U.S. Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford.
Evidence from intelligence sources is piling up that Iran was behind the attacks, although Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthi group claimed responsibility for the strikes on two plants that knocked out half of Saudi Arabia’s oil output and drove up global oil prices.
The Saudis displayed drone and missile debris, pictured, at a Riyadh press conference several days after the attacks that they said was “unquestionably sponsored by Iran,” The Guardiannewspaper reported. A Saudi defense spokesman said that 25 drones and cruise missiles were involved in the attacks and that they had been fired from the direction of Iran. Iran has denied responsibility.
The missile material appeared to be an Iranian Quds-1 missile, with a range of less than 1,000 kilometers and possibly as little as 500 kilometers, Michael Elleman of the International Institute for Strategic Studies told The Guardianin a subsequent report.
“Thus, it seems more probable that they were launched from either Iraq or Iran territory, but certainly not Yemen,” he said.
At least one of the missiles flew through Kuwait’s airspace as it headed to Saudi Arabia, according to CBS News. Other media outlets quoted officials saying the attacks originated in southwestern Iran.
Oil prices jumped 15%, the biggest one-day increase in 30 years, immediately after the attacks in Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest oil supplier, and sparked fears about the security of Middle Eastern crude supplies.
The United Arab Emirates and many European countries expediently condemned the attacks, along with the United States.
U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper called the attacks “unprecedented” on September 16, two days after the attacks, and said the U.S. and its allies were working together to defend the “international rules-based order that is being undermined by Iran,” CNBC reported.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who then traveled to Saudi Arabia to meet with Mohammed bin Salman, the crown prince, elaborated to reporters later in the week.
“We are working to build a coalition to develop a plan to deter them. This is what needs to happen. This is an attack on a scale that we’ve just not seen before,” Pompeo said. “We want to work to make sure that infrastructure and resources are put in place such that attacks like this would be less successful than this one appears to have been.”
For starters,Saudi Arabia joined the U.S.-led International Maritime Security Construct to secure the waterways of the broader Persian Gulf region, including the Strait of Hormuz and the Bab el-Mandeb, according to AP. Australia, Bahrain and the United Kingdom are already members.
U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration is also moving to “substantially increase” sanctions against Iran, according to a presidential tweet.
Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi agreed with Pompeo that the global economy would be affected if the attacks on Saudi oil facilities destabilize the situation in the Middle East, Reuters reported.
“We agreed that if the situation in the Middle East becomes unstable, that would affect the international economy,” Motegi said.
Every day Saudi Arabia ships more than 7 million barrels of oil globally. The Indo-Pacific region is heavily reliant on oil from Saudi Arabia, especially the People’s Republic of China (PRC), Japan, India, South Korea and Singapore, in that order.
The PRC received the majority of its imported oil from Saudi Arabia, roughly 18% so far in 2019, yet the PRC has been slow to come to its defense after the attacks, Reuters reported. China maintains “close” economic, diplomatic and energy relations with both Tehran and Riyadh, according to the news agency.
International benchmark Brent crude closed September 16 at U.S. $69.02 a barrel, rising U.S. $8.80, or 14.6%, its largest percentage increase in a single day since 1988, media outlets reported. Brent futures also reported more than 2 million contracts traded, an all-time daily volume record, Intercontinental Exchange spokeswoman Rebecca Mitchell said, Reuters reported.