See More on Facebook

Diplomacy, Politics

Iran rejects US claim it was behind Saudi oil strikes, says ready for war

All sides in the Middle East have stepped up their rhetoric in recent days.


Written by

Updated: September 16, 2019

Iran dismissed accusations by the United States that it was behind attacks on Saudi oil plants that risk disrupting global energy supplies and warned on Sunday that US bases and aircraft carriers in the region were in range of its missiles.

Yemen’s Houthi group claimed responsibility for Saturday’s attacks that knocked out more than half of Saudi oil output or more than 5 per cent of global supply, but US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the assault was the work of Iran, a Houthi ally.

The drone strikes on plants in the heartland of Saudi Arabia’s oil industry, including the world’s biggest petroleum processing facility, were expected to send oil prices up $5-10 per barrel on Monday as tensions rise in the Middle East.

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani accused Washington of diverting blame for the war in Yemen, where US ally Saudi Arabia leads a military coalition that has regularly carried out air strikes.

“Today, witness that innocents die every day in Yemen … Americans, instead of blaming themselves — and confessing that their presence in the region is creating problems — blame the region’s countries or Yemen’s people,” Rouhani said.

“If we want there to be real security in the region, the solution is that America’s aggression cease,” Iran’s president added, before leaving for Ankara to attend a trilateral meeting on Syria with Turkey and Russia.

“We believe the region’s issues can be solved through talks in Yemen, Yemeni-Yemeni negotiations — they must decide for themselves. The bombardment of Yemeni people must stop,” Rouhani said.

Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi, speaking on state TV, dismissed the US allegation as “pointless”.

Mousavi said the US allegations over the pre-dawn strikes on Abqaiq and Khurais in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province were meant to justify actions against Iran.

“Such remarks… are more like plotting by intelligence and secret organisations to damage the reputation of a country and create a framework for future actions,” he said.

A senior Revolutionary Guards commander warned that the Islamic Republic was ready for “full-fledged” war.

“Everybody should know that all American bases and their aircraft carriers in a distance of up to 2,000 kilometres around Iran are within the range of our missiles,” the semi-official Tasnim news agency quoted commander Amirali Hajizadeh as saying.

State oil giant Saudi Aramco said the attack cut output by 5.7 million barrels per day, at a time when Aramco is trying to ready itself for what is expected to be the world’s largest share sale.

Aramco gave no timeline for output resumption but said early on Sunday it would give a progress update in around 48 hours. A source close to the matter told Reuters the return to full oil capacity could take “weeks, not days”.

Traders and analysts said crude may spike to as high as $100 if Riyadh fails to quickly bring back supply.

The kingdom, the world’s top oil exporter, ships more than 7 million barrels of oil to global destinations every day. Aramco told one Indian refinery that it would deliver crude from other sources and had adequate inventory, a refinery source said.

Riyadh said it would compensate for the loss by drawing on its stocks which stood at 188 million barrels in June, according to official data. The United States said it was also ready to tap emergency oil reserves if needed.

The Saudi bourse closed down 1.1pc with banking and petrochemical shares taking the biggest hit. Saudi petrochemical firms announced a significant reduction in feedstock supplies.

“Abqaiq is the nerve centre of the Saudi energy system. Even if exports resume in the next 24-48 hours, the image of invulnerability has been altered,” Helima Croft, global head of commodity strategy at RBC Capital Markets, told Reuters.

‘Unprecedented attack’

According to US government information, 15 structures at Abqaiq suffered damage on their west-northwest facing sides.

Pompeo said there was no evidence the attack came from Yemen, where a Saudi-led coalition has been battling the Houthis for over four years in a conflict widely seen as a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Shia Muslim rival Iran.

“Amid all the calls for de-escalation, Iran has now launched an unprecedented attack on the world’s energy supply,” he said.

Riyadh accused Iran of being behind previous attacks on oil pumping stations and the Shaybah oilfield, charges Tehran denies. It has not yet blamed any party for Saturday’s strike, but linked it to a recent series of attacks on Saudi oil assets and crude tankers in Gulf waters.

Riyadh says Iran arms the Houthis, a charge both deny.

Some Iraqi media outlets said the attack came from there, where Iran-backed paramilitary groups wield increasing power. Iraq denied this on Sunday and vowed to punish anyone using Iraq as a launchpad for attacks.

Regional tensions have escalated since Washington quit an international nuclear deal and extended sanctions on Iran to choke off its vital oil exports.

The European Union warned that Saturday’s attack posed a real threat to regional security and France said such as actions could only worsen “risk of conflict”. Iran’s ally Turkey called for the avoidance of “provocative steps”.

US-Iran talks

The attack comes after US President Donald Trump said a meeting with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani was possible at the United Nations General Assembly in New York this month. Tehran ruled out talks until sanctions are lifted.

White House adviser Kellyanne Conway did not rule out a possible meeting between the two but told “Fox News Sunday” that the strikes “did not help” that prospect.

Saudi de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman told Trump that Riyadh was willing and able to deal with the “terrorist aggression”.

A senior Emirati official said the UAE, Riyadh’s main partner in the Western-backed military coalition in Yemen, would fully support Saudi Arabia as the assault “targets us all”.

The UAE, worried about rising Iran tensions and Western criticism of the war, has reduced its presence in Yemen, leaving Riyadh to try to neutralise the Houthi threat along its border.

Iran’s foreign minister Mohammed Javad Zarif said Washington and its allies were “stuck in Yemen” and that blaming Tehran “won’t end the disaster”.

The conflict has been in military stalemate for years. The alliance has air supremacy but has come under scrutiny over civilian deaths and a humanitarian crisis that has left millions facing starvation. The Houthis, more adept at guerrilla warfare, have increased attacks on Saudi cities, thwarting peace efforts.



Enjoyed this story? Share it.


Dawn
About the Author: Dawn is Pakistan's oldest and most widely read English-language newspaper.

Eastern Briefings

All you need to know about Asia


Our Eastern Briefings Newsletter presents curated stories from 22 Asian newspapers from South, Southeast and Northeast Asia.

Sign up and stay updated with the latest news.



By providing us with your email address, you agree to our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.

View Today's Newsletter Here

Diplomacy, Politics

‘History will take note of those who ridiculed removal of Article 370’: PM Modi in Maharashtra

PM Modi also expressed confidence that the BJP will break all victory records in the October 21 Maharashtra Assembly elections. Prime Minister on Thursday once again lashed out at the opposition saying that history will take note of those who mocked the abrogation of Article 370, that gave special status to Jammu and Kashmir. “Whenever Article 370 will be discussed in history, — the decision that was taken in the interest of the country — the people who opposed and ridiculed will be remembered,” PM Modi said while addressing a poll rally in Maharashtra’s Parli. He said the next week’s state Assembly elections were a battle between BJP’s “karyashakti” (power of development) and opposition’s “swarth shakti” (selfishness). Further targeting the Congress and NCP leaders, he wondered if “frustrated and dejected” people could do anything good for people. “A Congress


By The Statesman
October 18, 2019

Diplomacy, Politics

Malaysia’s PM Mahathir says rail line RTS linking Johor Baru to Singapore to proceed

The rail line has been on again and off again. Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad on Thursday (Oct 17) said Malaysia will proceed with the 4km Johor Baru to Singapore rail line. His comments about the Rapid Transit System (RTS) rail link followed that of Malaysian Transport Minister Anthony Loke on Tuesday that details of the project will be decided by the Malaysian Cabinet within two weeks. Tun Dr Mahathir said when asked by reporters on Thursday: “We will proceed with the RTS but we will take some time.” Asked if this meant the Malaysian government had resolved 


By The Straits Times
October 18, 2019

Diplomacy, Politics

S. Korean, ASEAN officials look ahead to special summit and stronger regional ties

Korea has increasingly look to Southeast Asia as an export destination and regional partners. Ahead of the highly anticipated summit in Busan next month between the leaders of South Korea and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, top officials from participating countries gathered in the southern port city Wednesday and voiced high expectations for the future of the relationship between South Korea and the ASEAN nations. South Korean Ambassador to ASEAN Lim Sung-nam, ASEAN-Korea Center Secretary-General Lee Hyuk, Busan Mayor Oh Keo-don and Myanmar Ambassador to South Korea U Thant Sin said they looked forward to the upcoming summit, calling it a steppingstone to stronger South Korea-ASEAN ties and to economic prosperity and peace on the Korean Peninsula. “In the past 30 years, the relationship between South Korea and ASEAN has grown to an astonishing degree. Trade volume rose 20-fold and human e


By The Korea Herald
October 18, 2019

Diplomacy, Politics

We will never abandon people of occupied Kashmir, says Army chief during LoC visit

The army chief said that the Pakistan army will fulfil its role no matter the cost. Army chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa while visiting troops stationed along the Line of Control (LoC) on Wednesday vowed “to never leave Kashmiris alone” in their fight against Indian oppression. “Kashmiris in IOJ&K are bravely facing Indian atrocities under continued siege. We shall never leave them alone and play our rightful role at whatever cost”, said Gen Bajwa. Gen Bajwa’s remarks followed a briefing of the “deliberate targeting of civilians” by Indian troops and the response by Pakistan’s armed forces. A day earlier, at least three civilians died and eight others were injured in Azad Jammu and Kashmir after Indian troops resorted to “indiscri


By Dawn
October 17, 2019

Diplomacy, Politics

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam unveils measures to ease housing crunch

Lam was forced to deliver speech via video after protests. Embattled Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam announced measures aimed at easing a housing shortage on Wednesday (Oct 16) as she battles to restore confidence in her administration and address widespread discontent after four months of mostly violent anti-government protests. Mrs Lam was forced to deliver her speech via video after her annual policy address in the Legislative Council was aborted when some lawmakers repeatedly jeered and shouted at her as she began speaking. After aborting her speech in the chamber tw


By The Straits Times
October 17, 2019

Diplomacy, Politics

Singapore’s 4G leadership lays out plans to take relationship with China ‘to a higher level’

The two countries share a close relationship. Singapore’s fourth-generation leadership has a comprehensive plan for engaging with China economically and plugging into the East Asian giant’s rapid development. Ten members of the “4G” cohort drove home this point as they spoke with Singapore media at the end of a bilateral meeting in Chongqing on Tuesday (Oct 15) that was of particular significance, as the Singapore team was composed fully of this new generation of political leaders. Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat led the Singapore delegation as he co-chaired the 15th Joint Council for Bilateral Cooperation, the highest-level bilateral platform between Singapore and China. Mr Heng, who took over the reins from former DPM Teo Chee Hean earlier this year, said his first meeting in the new role was forward-looking and productive, and that he took the opportunity to “


By The Straits Times
October 16, 2019