Saudi Refinery Attacks Underscore Drone Threat

UPDATE: Oil prices jumped on global markets Sunday night after a wave of weekend #droneattacks instantly erased half of #SaudiArabia ‘s oil production.

September 15, 2019 Unprecedented drone attacks targeting the world’s largest oil processing plant Saturday is a dramatic escalation in the confrontation between Iran and Saudi Arabia — no matter who is responsible for the attack. The massive attacks underscore the asymmetric threat posed by drones.

The coordinated attacks on key Saudi Arabian oil facilities have disrupted about half of the kingdom’s oil capacity, or 5% of the daily global oil supply.

In a statement on Sunday, Saudi Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman said state-owned Saudi Aramco is currently working to recover the lost quantities of oil and will update the public within two days.

“These attacks are not only aimed at the vital installations of the kingdom, but also on the global oil supply and its security, and thus pose a threat to the global economy.”

Who is Responsible for the Attacks?

Houthi rebels in Yemen, a terrorist group allied with Iran claimed responsibility for the attacks, and said 10 drones had targeted oil installations in Abqaiq and Khurais.

U.S. Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo blamed Iran for the attacks via Twitter.

“Iran has now launched an unprecedented attack on the world’s energy supply.” And he added: “There is no evidence the attacks came from Yemen.”

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif responded to Pompeo’s claim, accusing him of lying. FM Zarif wrote on Twitter:

“Having failed at ‘max pressure’, @SecPompeo’s turning to ‘max deceit’ US & its clients are stuck in Yemen because of illusion that weapon superiority will lead to military victory. Blaming Iran won’t end disaster.”

A source with knowledge of the incident told CNN on Sunday that preliminary reports suggest the attacks originated from Iraq. Iran wields significant influence in southern Iraq, which is situated much closer than Yemen to the affected Saudi sites.

DRONES—Cheap and Effective

A Wall Street Journal report in May highlighted the evolving threat of cheap unmanned drones packed with explosives in the ongoing civil war in Yemen.

Steve Ganyard, a retired Colonel in the United State Marine Corps and ABC News contributor said on Sunday drones are a very difficult asymmetric threat. Drones are hard to attack.

“These 10-20 thousand dollar drones are defeating air defense systems that cost hundreds of millions of dollars.” 

Ganyard added that the United States military is just rolling out the capabilities to take down these drones.

Since 2014, the Islamic State or ISIS has employed drones to carry out attacks in Iraq and Syria. In August, the Israeli military carried out an air strike to thwart a “very imminent” Iranian drone strike.




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