DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - A Yemen rebel drone strike this week on a critical Saudi oil pipeline shows that the otherwise-peaceful sandy reaches of the Arabian Peninsula now are at risk of similar assault, including an under-construction nuclear power plant and Dubai International Airport, among the world's busiest. U.N. investigators said the Houthis' new UAV-X drone, found in recent months during the Saudi-led coalition's war in Yemen, likely has a range of up to 1,500 km (930 miles). That puts the far reaches of both Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, the two main opponents of the Iranian-allied Houthi rebels in Yemen, within reach of drones difficult to detect and track. Their relatively simple design, coupled with readily available information online, makes targeting even easier, analysts say. "These installations are easily findable, like on Google Earth," said Tim Michetti, an expert on illicit weapons technology with experience in Yemen.
Fixing the damage done by the drone attack on the Saudi oil processing plant may be the easy part. The hard part will be calming energy markets, where oil prices have jumped faster than at any time in over a decade. The attack on Saudi Arabia's Abqaiq plant, which accounts for 5 percent of global oil supplies, and a nearby facility took 5.7 million barrels a day of production off line for at least a few days. It also revealed the significant danger that drones pose to the Persian Gulf's sprawling processing plants, pipelines and refineries. "The psyche has been altered," said Tom Kloza, global head of energy analysis for Oil Price Information Service.
DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES – The weekend drone attack on one of the world's largest crude oil processing plants that dramatically cut into global oil supplies is the most visible sign yet of how Aramco's stability and security is directly linked to that of its owner -- the Saudi government and its ruling family. The strikes, which U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo blamed on Iran despite staunch denials by Tehran, led to suspension of more than 5 percent of the world's daily crude oil production, bringing into focus just how vulnerable the company is to Saudi Arabia's conflicts outside the country's borders, particularly with regional rival Iran. That matters greatly because Aramco produces and exports Saudi Arabia's more than 9.5 million barrels of oil per day to consumers around the world, primarily in Asia. It also comes as the state-owned company heads toward a partial public sale. To prepare for an initial public offering, the company has recently taken steps to distance itself from the Saudi government, which is controlled by the Al Saud ruling family.
The attack comes after Iran exceeded their enriched uranium stockpile limit in the nuclear deal. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called on the international community to join him Saturday in condemning Iran for drone attacks on two Saudi oil facilities, which he described as "an unprecedented attack on the world's energy supply." "Tehran is behind nearly 100 attacks on Saudi Arabia while [President Hassan] Rouhani and [Foreign Minister Mohammad] Zarif pretend to engage in diplomacy," Pompeo tweeted, referring to the nation's president and foreign affairs minister. There is no evidence the attacks came from Yemen." Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen claimed responsibility for the attack hours before Pompeo's tweet. The world's largest oil processing facility in Saudi Arabia and a major oil field were impacted, sparking huge fires at a vulnerable chokepoint for global energy supplies. "The United States will work with our partners and allies to ensure that energy markets remain well supplied and Iran is held accountable for its aggression," Pompeo concluded. According to multiple news reports that cited unidentified sources, the drone attacks affected up to half of the supplies from the world's largest exporter of oil, though the output should be restored within days. It remained unclear if anyone was injured at the Abqaiq oil processing facility and the Khurais oil field. Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., who sits on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, denounced Pompeo's description of the attack, calling it an "irresponsible simplification." "The Saudis and Houthis are at war.
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – The energy-rich Arab nation of Qatar says its ruling emir received a letter from the king of Saudi Arabia. The letter marks the highest-level, publicly known contact between the two nations since the kingdom and three other nations began boycotting it nearly two years ago. Qatar's Foreign Ministry late Sunday said the letter from King Salman to Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani requested Doha's presence at an emergency summit being held in Mecca later this week over alleged sabotage of ships off the United Arab Emirates and a drone attack by Yemen's rebels on a Saudi oil pipeline amid U.S.-Iran tensions. Qatar did not say whether it would attend the meeting. Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the UAE have been boycotting Qatar over a political dispute since June 2017.