A border conflict is going on between Yemen and Saudi Arabia since 2015. Yemen is perhaps the poorest of Arab Gulf states. Saudi Arabia has garnered a united front with many other states in his influence.
So, the strikes over Yemen are said to be done by the coalition forces, just to avoid direct maligning of the Oil Kingdom. Saudi coalition partners include UAE, Senegal, Kuwait, Jordan, Bahrein, Qatar, Morocco, Sudan and Egypt and what not. Except for Oman and Japan, most of the other countries are supporters of Saudi Arabia.
The conflict between Yemen and Saudi Arabia started when the Houthi Movement ousted president of Yemen Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi who enjoyed support of the Saudi Kingdom. It is alleged by the international community that the Saudi intervention is in compliance with Article 2 (4) of the UN Charter but this has been contested by certain trustworthy academics. The intervention started with bombing the Houthi strongholds but later it turned out to be the naval blockade and then the deployment of ground forces in Yemen. It won’t be wrong to see this conflict as Saudi – Iranian proxy.
On Saturday, the 14th of September, at 3:31 am and 3:42 am loud explosions erupted at Khurais oil field and Abqaiq processing facility, both owned by Saudi Aramco. Aramco is state owned oil company and it is called as the Jewel of the Kingdom’s crown.
Saudi pipelines, oil installations and oil tankers have occasionally been attacked over the past two years but what happened in eastern Saudi Arabia on 14th of September is an immensely large escalation. The explosion caused huge fire that could not be controlled for hours. It disrupted the production of 5m barrels a day, nearly half of the kingdom’s estimated output of 9.7m barrels.
The Houthis claimed the responsibility of the attack. Houthis are Zaidi Shias and they enjoy the support of Iranian Shia government. Despite the Houthis’ claim the US Foreign Secretary wasted no time in pointing the finger to Iran. This resulted in the surge of tension in the Middle East.
The Saudi government said that they will “confront and deal with the terrorist aggression”. The US President Donald Trump insinuated at possible military action.
A week after claiming drone attacks on Saudi oil installations, Mahdi al-Mashat, head of the Houthis’ supreme political council, which controls the rebel-held areas in Yemen, announced on Houthi-run Al Masirah TV, on 20th September:
“We declare ceasing to target the Saudi Arabian territory with military drones, ballistic missiles and all other forms of weapons, and we wait for a reciprocal move from them. We reserve the right to respond if they fail to reciprocate positively to this initiative”.
He further added that the continuation of Yemen war “will not benefit any side”.
Despite the Houthis’ insisting that they are responsible for the 14th September assault on Aramco sites that initially halved Kingdom’s production, the United States and Saudi Arabia have blamed Iran.
Iran denies being involved, warning that any retaliatory strikes on it by the US or Saudi Arabia will result in “an all-out war”. Mashat, the Houthi leader said that the major goal of the ceasefire was to “preserve the blood of Yemenis and achieve a general amnesty”. He added: “I call on all parties from different sides of the war to engage seriously in genuine negotiations that can lead to a comprehensive national reconciliation that does not exclude anyone”.
Saudi Arabia requested that Pakistan commit forces as well, but Pakistan’s Parliament officially voted to remain neutral. However, Pakistan agreed to provide support in line with a United Nations Security Council’s resolution, dispatching war ships to enforce an arms embargo against the Houthis.
Mashat also called for the reopening of Sanaa’s international airport and open access to Yemen’s Red Sea Port of Hodeidah, a crucial entry point for imports and humanitarian aid that has been at the centre of United Nations’ brokered talks.
Since March 2015, the conflict has killed tens of thousands of people so far and left millions on brink of famine, sparking what the UN calls the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.
As already said, Yemen conflict is seen as a proxy war in the region between Iran and Saudi Arabia. In the backdrop of escalated tension in the Middle East after drone attacks on Saudi oil facilities, the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo swiftly accused Iran of being behind the assault and that too without providing an evidence. The claim was instantly rejected by Tehran that said the allegations were meant to justify “actions” against it.
On 22nd September, the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that the US aims to avoid war with Iran and added that deploying troops in the Gulf region is for “deterrence and defence”. “Our mission set is to avoid war”, Pompeo told Fox News. “You saw what [defence} Secretary Esper announced on Friday [20th September] ‘we are putting additional forces in the region for the purpose of deterrence and defence’. “If that deterrence continued to fail, I am also confident that President Trump would continue to take the actions that are necessary”, he added.
The head of the Iranian navy said the Islamic Republic was ready to defend its marine borders and would deliver a “crushing reaction” to any aggression. “In case of any miscalculation and aggression by the enemy, [ the navy], along with other armed forces of the country will give the most crushing reaction in the shortest time possible”, Rear Admiral Hossein Khanzadi was cited as saying by the semi-official Mehr News Agency.
“Today the Islamic Republic of Iran’s defence power is at its highest possible level and forces of army and [ Revolutionary Guards] are ready to defend marine borders of the country”.
On 23rd September, the British Prime Minister Boris Johnson blamed Iran for attacks on Saudi Arabian oil fields ahead of a meeting with the country’s President Hassan Rouhani. Mr Johnson said that there was a “very high degree of probability” Iran was behind the drone missile attacks on two oil facilities, which Tehran denies. The Prime Minister declined to rule out military intervention and said sanctions were also a possibility.
Retaliating British Prime Minister stance, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said a military strike would have completely knocked out Saudi Arabia’s main oil producing facility, again denying accusations that his country was behind the oil attacks.
The way US and Britain are trying to exert pressure on Iran makes one think that at the bottom of the issue is something else. Using the pretext of drone and missile attacks on Saudi Arabia, they want to bring round Iran for a fresh nuclear deal.
The same day Boris Johnson issued another statement in which he urged world powers to strike a new deal with Iran to replace the current one. “Whatever your objections with the old nuclear deal with Iran, it’s time now to move forward and do a new deal,” Johnson said. His Office clarified that Britain still backed the existing nuclear accord signed in 2015 and wanted Iran to halt its non-compliance moves and return.
The Saudis need to get out of the dark and try to analyse who could do that hitting the oil facilities with exact precision. The attack was neither drone nor missile in possession of Iran or the Houthis. Both of them have neither the capacity nor capability to dodge Saudi US deployed Air Defence System. Since Iran is already on wartime surveillance of US satellites and radars, not a slightest military manoeuvre can go unchecked, it makes almost impossible for Iran or Houthi militia to leave no evidence.
Now US offer of Defence of Saudi Arabia unveils the real objective, total control of oil producing facilities, and greater military presence enabling Israel to advance further its ambitions of control in the Arabian region.
There are strong rumours that the strikes were undertaken by Israeli F-35 Stealth Fighters withstand off munitions. That is why the radars failed to detect them. The idea behind the strike was to pin the blame on Iran, instigating a Saudi-Iranian conflagration, causing the US – Israel troops to join in the conflict, and settle the Iran problem once for all.