KSA accuses Iran of ordering drone attack on oil pipeline

Nellie Chapman
May 18, 2019

Tensions have risen sharply in the Gulf over the past week yet almost as many questions have been raised as answered as to what exactly happened - and what could happen next. However, Anwar Gargash also said the UAE is "very committed to de-escalation" after the alleged sabotage of the tankers off the country's coast. A high-ranking British general said there was no new threat from Iran or its regional proxies, something immediately rebutted by the US military's Central Command, which said its troops were on high alert, without elaborating. More controversially, an Iranian parliamentary spokesman said Iran suspects "Israeli mischief" was responsible.

There was far more clarity about Tuesday's attack on the Saudi East-West pipeline. The incidents were followed by an attack carried out by Iranian-backed rebels in Yemen on a Saudi oil pipeline.

The Emirati Ministry for Foreign Affairs nearly immediately condemned the attack, dubbing it "new proof of the Houthis' hostile and terrorist tendencies". Also on Tuesday, a Houthi-run television station claimed responsibility for having conducted a "big military operation" using drones against Saudi installations. Still, Gargash was quick to dismiss an anonymous USA official's claim blaming Iran for the ships' sabotage, saying the UAE is closer to the investigation.

While the energy piece of these attacks is certainly critical, the timing of the attacks is a bit more puzzling. It added that Saudi Aramco's oil and gas supplies were unaffected. Some experts have further questioned the technical ability of the Houthis to carry out a drone attack of the magnitude seen in Saudi Arabia, particularly without being detected.

Pipeline attacks, stock photo.

His comments came as Saudi-led forces launched retaliatory airstrikes against Houthi positions in Yemen, where the United Nations is working to end a four-year war that's killed thousands and left millions facing hunger and disease.

The next logical step - in this newspaper's view - should be surgical strikes. It said "appeasement does not work with the Iranian regime, just as it did not work with Hitler".

Sources said that India's statement does not take sides between Iran and Saudi Arabia.

Aiming to isolate Iran, the United States looks increasingly isolated itself
Spokesmen for two of the groups told Reuters that the talk of threats to U.S. forces was "psychological warfare" by Washington . The Netherlands and Germany have also reportedly said they are suspending military activity in Iraq due to security concerns.

At the same time, Saudi Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel bin Ahmed Al-Jubeir wrote on his official Twitter page that "the Houthis are an indivisible part of Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and subject to the IRGC's orders". Either way, it is a powerful signal of at least one strand of Saudi thinking in terms of an appropriate response to these developments.

Iran "does not seek clashes in the region", Zarif said in an interview with Iranian state television during his Japan trip, "but it has always defended its interests forcefully and will continue to do so now". Reuters revealed on Thursday through Iraqi sources that this visit was prompted by the positioning of rockets belonging to Shii militias near USA military bases.

Last week, USA officials said they had detected signs of Iranian preparations for potential attacks on U.S. forces and interests in the Middle East, but Washington has not publicly provided any evidence to back up claims of an increased Iranian threat. In addition to the attack on the tankers and pipeline, reports also emerged of the Trump administration's plans to send up to 120,000 troops to the Middle East. Iraq is home to powerful pro-Iranian militias, while also hosting more than 5,000 USA troops. "We are looking for Iran to behave like a normal country".

Arab News' appeal for Trump to go to war with Iran comes amid fears that tensions in the region are spiralling out of control.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif spent the week touring Asia to drum up economic and political support.

The US State Department has ordered all nonessential government staff to leave its embassy and consulate in Iraq. The U.K. also raised the threat level for its armed forces and diplomats in Iraq because of an increased security risk from Iran, two people familiar with the matter said.

Meanwhile, the Qatar-funded satellite news broadcaster Al-Jazeera said Qatar is trying to "defuse escalating tensions".

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