RIYADH: The weapons used to strike Saudi oil facilities were Iranian-made, the Riyadh-led coalition said on Monday, heightening fears of regional conflict after the US hinted at a military response to the assault.
The weekend strikes on Abqaiq — the world’s largest oil processing facility — and the Khurais oil field in eastern Saudi Arabia have roiled global energy markets with prices spiking Monday to record highs.
Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthi rebels claimed responsibility for the strikes but Washington has squarely blamed Iran, with President Donald Trump saying the US is “locked and loaded” to respond.
Saudi’s energy infrastructure has been hit before, but this strike was of a different order, abruptly halting 5.7 million barrels per day (bpd) or about six percent of the world’s oil supply.
The Saudi-led coalition, which is bogged down in a five-year war in neighbouring Yemen, reiterated the assessment that the Houthis were not behind it, pointing the finger at Iran for providing the weapons.
Russia urged “all countries to avoid hasty steps or conclusions that could exacerbate the situation” while the European Union stressed all sides should show “maximum restraint”.
China also called on the US and Iran to “exercise restraint... in the absence of a conclusive investigation or verdict.” “All indications are that weapons used in both attacks came from Iran,” coalition spokesman Turki al-Maliki told reporters in Riyadh, adding they were now probing “from where they were fired”.
“This strike didn’t come from Yemen territory as the Houthi militia are pretending,” Maliki said, adding an investigation had been opened.
He labelled the Houthis “a tool in the hands of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards and the terrorist regime of Iran”.
The rebels said they fired 10 drones at the Saudi infrastructure, but the New York Times reported that US officials had satellite images showing the attacks — possibly with drones and cruise missiles — had come from the north or northwest.
That indicated they were sourced in the northern Persian Gulf, Iran or Iraq, rather than Yemen.
Published in Dawn, September 17th, 2019