Yemen's Houthi rebels strike Saudi airport ahead of Mike Pompeo visit

The Japan Times

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - One person was killed and seven others were wounded in an attack by Iranian-allied Yemeni rebels on an airport in the kingdom Sunday evening as U.S. Secretary of State was on his way to the country for talks on Iran, Saudi Arabia said. Regional tensions have flared in recent days, The U.S. abruptly called off military strikes against Iran in response to the shooting down of an unmanned American surveillance drone. The Trump administration has vowed to combine a "maximum pressure" campaign of economic sanctions with a buildup of American forces in the region, following the U.S. withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers. A new set of U.S. sanctions on Iran are expected to be announced Monday. The Sunday attack by the Yemeni rebels, known as Houthis, targeted the Saudi airport in Abha.


Saudi crown prince accuses rival Iran of tanker attacks

The Japan Times

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said in remarks published Sunday that the kingdom will not hesitate to confront threats to its security and joined the U.S. in accusing its bitter rival, Iran, of being behind the attacks on two vessels traveling near the Strait of Hormuz, a vital trade route for Arabian energy exports in Asia. The U.S. has blamed Iran for the suspected attacks on two oil tankers, denouncing what it called a campaign of "escalating tensions." The U.S. alleges Iran used limpet mines to target the tankers, pointing to black-and-white footage it captured that American officials describe as Iranian Revolutionary Guard troops removing an unexploded mine from the Japanese-operated tanker Kokuka Courageous. The Japanese tanker's crew members described "flying objects" as having targeted the vessel, seemingly contradicting the assertion that limpet mines were used. In an interview with the Arabic-language newspaper Asharq al-Awsat, Prince Mohammed said Iran disrespected the visit to Tehran by the Japanese prime minister last week and responded to his diplomatic efforts to reduce regional tensions by attacking the two tankers.


Saudi-led coalition launches military operation in Yemen in wake of oil facility attack

The Japan Times

DUBAI – The Saudi-led coalition on Friday launched a military operation north of Yemen's port city of Hodeidah against what it described as "legitimate military targets," an incident that could aggravate regional tensions after a weekend attack on Saudi oil installations. The coalition said it had destroyed four sites used in assembling remote-controlled boats and sea mines to help protect the freedom of maritime navigation. "These sites are used to carry out attacks and terrorist operations that threaten shipping lines and international trade in the Bab al-Mandab Strait and the southern Red Sea," coalition spokesman Colonel Turki al-Malki said in a statement. The Houthi movement in Yemen, which had claimed responsibility for Saturday's attacks on Saudi oil facilities, said through its Masirah TV that the coalition had breached the U.N. agreement reached in Sweden. The Western-backed, Sunni Muslim coalition intervened in Yemen in March 2015 against the Yemen Iran-aligned Houthi group after the Houthis ousted the internationally recognized government in Sanaa in late 2014.


Saudi seeks oil supply protection as U.S and Iran face off

The Japan Times

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - Saudi Arabia called for swift action to secure Persian Gulf energy supplies and joined the United States in blaming Iran for attacks on two oil tankers in a vital shipping route that have raised fears of broader confrontation in the region. Thursday's tanker attacks in the Gulf of Oman exacerbated the antagonistic fallout from similar blasts in May that crippled four vessels. Washington, already embroiled in a standoff with Iran over its nuclear program, has blamed Tehran and Saudi Arabia's crown prince also accused Iran on Saturday. Iran has denied any role in the strikes on the tankers south of the Strait of Hormuz, a major transit route for oil from Saudi Arabia, the world's biggest crude exporter, and other producers in the region. Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih said there must be "a rapid and decisive response to the threat" to energy supplies, market stability and consumer confidence, his ministry said on Twitter.


Attack on Saudi oil sites raises risks amid U.S.-Iran tensions; Mike Pompeo already blames Tehran

The Japan Times

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES – A weekend drone attack on Saudi Arabia that cut into global energy supplies and halved the kingdom's oil production threatened Sunday to fuel a regional crisis, as Iran denied U.S. allegations it launched the assault and tensions remained high over Tehran's collapsing nuclear deal. Iran called the U.S. claims "maximum lies," while a commander in its paramilitary Revolutionary Guard reiterated its forces could strike U.S. military bases across the Mideast with their arsenal of ballistic missiles. A prominent U.S. senator suggested striking Iranian oil refineries in response to the assault, claimed by Yemen's Iran-backed Houthi rebels, on Saudi Arabia's largest oil processing facility. "Because of the tension and sensitive situation, our region is like a powder keg," warned Guard Brig. "When these contacts come too close, when forces come into contact with one another, it is possible a conflict happens because of a misunderstanding."