Saudi Arabia says its oil infrastructure attacked by drones

Posted May 15, 2019

There has been an all-round condemnation of the targeted sabotage of four commercial vessels - two from Saudi Arabia and one each from United Arab Emirates and Norway - off the coast of Fujairah.

The Emirati-flagged oil tanker A. Michel, May 13, 2019, one of four ships damaged in what Gulf officials called a "sabotage" attack off the coast of the United Arab Emirates.

At a meeting of US President Donald Trumps top national security aides last week, Acting Defence Secretary Patrick Shanahan presented an updated military plan that envisions sending as many as 120,000 troops to the Middle East should Iran attack American forces or accelerate work on nuclear weapons, administration officials said.

In addition to pulling the USA out of the Iran nuclear deal in May 2018, which was a hallmark of former President Barack Obama's foreign policy legacy, Trump also made a decision to crack down on Iran petroleum exports last month as a way of bringing a regime he views as unsafe to heel.

"In an environment of rising regional tensions, limited Iranian operations against the UAE and Saudi Arabia might be created to dissuade Abu Dhabi and Riyadh and signal that war with Iran will not be limited to Iranian soil", said Alex Vatanka, senior fellow at the Middle East Institute.

Two oil pumping stations serving a major East-West oil pipeline in Saudi Arabia faced a attack by armed drones on Tuesday, with the damage now being assessed, the minister of Energy, Industry and Mineral Resources Khalid bin Al-Falih has said.

Saudi officials said the tankers were sabotaged.

Images that CNN captured of the Norwegian tanker, Andrea Victory, show damage sustained to the hull of the vessel.

A statement on Sunday from the UAE's Foreign Ministry put the ships near the country's territorial waters in the Gulf of Oman, east of the port of Fujairah.

The UAE ministry did not elaborate on the nature of the alleged sabotage, or offer any indication as to who might be responsible, including whether it was carried out by individuals or a larger group or country. It said it was investigating "in cooperation with local and worldwide bodies". It said there were no injuries or deaths. "They know a war wouldn't be beneficial for them", he said.

Iran called for an investigation into the "alarming" attacks and warned of "adventurism" by foreign players to disrupt maritime security.

The Kingdom condemned Tuesday's attack and the recent attacks on ships in the Arabian Gulf, threatening oil output - Al-Falih said the Kingdom saw the attacks as a cowardly act of terror aimed at destruction.

Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih Al-Falih vowed that production and export of Saudi oil would not be interrupted.

Nearly all the oil exports of Saudi Arabia, Iraq, UAE, Kuwait, Qatar and Iran itself, at least 15 million barrels per day, are shipped through the Strait of Hormuz.

Saudi Arabia claimed that two of its oil tankers were attacked on Sunday while sailing toward the Persian Gulf. "This decision is meant to bring Iran's oil exports to zero, denying the regime its principal source of revenue".

The Associated Press reported that "Iranian or Iranian-backed proxies" were behind the attacks. Trump said when questioned by ABC News' Cecilia Vega about the reported plan Tuesday.

US military officials have said there is an elevated threat level facing USA troops deployed in Iraq and Syria - primarily emanating from Iranian-controlled Shiite militias.

Bahrain, Egypt and Yemen's internationally recognised governments similarly condemned the alleged sabotage.