KHURAIS: Saudi Arabia on Friday took media personnel to an oil facility hit by air strikes that Washington and Riyadh blamed on Iran, showing bent pipes and burnt equipment, as Tehran vowed retaliation if heightened tensions boiled over into hostilities.
The kingdom sees the Sept 14 strikes on its Khurais and Abqaiq facilities — the worst attack on Gulf oil infrastructure since Iraq’s Saddam Hussein torched Kuwaiti oilfields in 1991 — as a test of global will to preserve international order.
Iran denies involvement in the attack, which initially halved oil output from Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest petroleum exporter. Responsibility was claimed by Yemen’s Houthi movement, an Iran-aligned group fighting a Saudi-led alliance in Yemen’s four-year-old conflict.
At Khurais, which the Saudi defence ministry says was hit by four missiles, reporters were shown repair work under way, with cranes erected around two burnt-out stabilisation columns, which form part of oil-gas separation units, and molten pipes.
“We are confident we are going back to the full production we were at before the attack [on Khurais] by the end of September,” Fahad Abdulkarim, Aramco’s general manager for the southern area oil operation, told reporters. “We are working 24/7... This is a beehive.”
Workmen wearing red high-visibility jackets and white helmets moved through the site, a large compound the size of several football stadiums containing interconnected structures of piping and towers.
A mound of blackened debris lay on the ground. An executive said the scorched mess once covered much of the ground but now only a small mound is left.
Some workers sprayed what appeared to be water on the ground. Mobile cranes and water trucks stood near the crumpled, mangled remains of a fire-damaged stabilisation tower.
The attacks intensified a years-long struggle between Saudi Arabia and Iran, who are locked in a sometimes violent contest for influence in several flashpoints around the Middle East.
Saudi Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel al-Jubeir said on Thursday the attacks were an “extension of the Iranian regime’s hostile and outlawed behaviour”.
Iran has warned US President Donald Trump against being dragged into a war in the Middle East and said it would meet any offensive action with a crushing response.
Published in Dawn, September 21st, 2019