Crisis in the Arabian Gulf

Scorpion

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Just a theory-

The drone was controlled via a boat in the red sea.
Valid point, unless it was flying on low altitude it would have been detected. It knew its route otherwise it would have lost connection due to terrain.
 

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Arab World Denounces Terror Attack against Saudi Oil Pumping Stations
14 May, 2019


Saudi Aramco's Natural Gas Liquids plant in the remote Empty Quarter near the United Arab Emirates. (AFP)

Asharq Al-Awsat

The Arab world condemned on Tuesday that terrorist drone attack that targeted oil pumping stations in Saudi Arabia and that was claimed by the Iran-backed Houthi militias in Yemen.

Bahrain denounced and strongly condemned the attack, saying this “cowardly act targets the security and stability of Saudi Arabia and the region, and also threatens the safety of the world's energy supply.”

The Foreign Ministry commended Saudi efforts in dealing with this heinous act, stressing the unequivocal position of Bahrain in supporting Saudi Arabia against those threatening its security or harming its interests and the stability of its people, read a statement carried by the Bahrain news agency (BNA).

The ministry also stressed the need for the international community to combat all groups and terrorist organizations, and all parties and states supporting it that seek to provoke tension, violence and chaos in the region, and deter them in order to maintain security and regional and international peace.

Egypt slammed the drone attack, saying Cairo stands alongside Saudi Arabia "to counter all attempts meant to stabilize the Kingdom.”

A Foreign Ministry statement said Egypt is coordinating with Saudi Arabia to face "terror and all threats to its national security."

The United Arab Emirates strongly condemned the "cowardly act of terrorism and sabotage" aimed at undermining the safety of the world's global energy supplies and economy.

In a statement, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation stressed the UAE's absolute support for Saudi Arabia and for all measures taken to protect the security of its facilities and natural resources, read a statement from the UAE news agency (WAM).

The ministry stressed that the targeting of the two pumping stations proves once again the importance of addressing terrorist organizations that carry out such subversive acts, including the Houthis in Yemen. It called on the international community to play its role in restoring legitimacy in Yemen and to take the necessary steps to deal with terrorist acts that destabilize the region.

Kuwait condemned in the strongest of words the terrorist attack. An official source at the Foreign Ministry said that Kuwait stands by Saudi Arabia and supports all measures it takes to safeguard its security and stability against terrorist acts.

Jordan slammed the “cowardly” attack, stressing that it stands by Saudi Arabia against any threat that undermines its security and stability.

“Any attack against the Kingdom is an attack against the security of the region and world,” said a Foreign Ministry spokesman.

Arab League Secretary General Ahmed Abul Gheit slammed the attacks as a a "serious threat to the regional and international security, and the world economy."

He stressed that the Arab League stands by Saudi Arabia to "counter these terrorist threats aimed at stabilizing the region."

 

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Attacks on Saudi Arabia, UAE energy facilities likely coordinated, analysts say
Updated 15 sec ago
Frank Kane
Rawan Radwan
NOOR NUGALI
May 15, 2019

  • The attack comes two days after four oil vessels, including two Saudi tankers, were victims of “sabotage” off the UAE port of Fujairah
DUBAI/RIYADH/JEDDAH: Energy experts said twin attacks on Gulf energy facilities were likely coordinated. Tuesday’s drone strikes on Saudi oil facilities were described by Khalid Al-Falih, the energy minister, as “an act of terrorism and sabotage.”

The early-morning attack, the second this week in the Gulf, was carried out on two pumping stations operated by Saudi Aramco. The Energy Ministry said that one pumping station had been shut down because of fire while evaluation was underway to assess its condition, but said that “Saudi oil production has not been interrupted.”

There was a jump in the price of oil when the attack — which had been announced without detail on a television channel in Yemen sympathetic to Houthis, but later denied by the militia group — was confirmed by the Kingdom. Brent crude rose by about 1.65 percent to stand at around $71.39 at 6:30 p.m. GMT.

Al-Falih said the Kingdom “condemns this cowardly attack, emphasizing that this act of terrorism and sabotage in addition to recent acts in the Arabian Gulf do not only target the Kingdom but also the security of world oil supplies and the global economy.

“These attacks prove again that it is important for us to face terrorist entities, including the Houthi militias in Yemen that are backed by Iran,” he added.

The attack comes two days after four oil vessels, including two Saudi tankers, were victims of “sabotage” off the UAE port of Fujairah. No organization has yet claimed responsibility for that attack, but it has heightened fears of a wider confrontation with Iran in the Arabian Gulf.

A statement from the Saudi Energy Ministry said: “Between 6:00 a.m. and 6:30 a.m., two pump stations on the East-West pipeline were attacked by armed drones which caused a fire and minor damage to Pump Station No. 8. The fire has since been contained. The pipeline transports Saudi oil from the Eastern Province to Yanbu port.”

Maps show a string of Saudi Aramco pumping stations south of Buraydah on the route from the capital to Yanbu.

Despite the damage being contained and no interruption to oil supplies, energy experts highlighted the potential seriousness of the attacks.

The US-based energy consultant Ellen Wald, author of “Saudi Inc.,” told Arab News: “The East-West Pipeline transports about 5 million barrels of oil per day from fields in eastern Saudi Arabia to the Red Sea port of Yanbu. It is a very important alternative route for oil exports that allows Aramco to bypass the Strait of Hormuz … which Iran has threatened to close.

“In fact, Aramco plans to expand the pipeline’s capacity in the coming years. The drone attack reveals the 1,200 km pipeline’s vulnerability … oil prices are understandably climbing as a result,” she added.

David Hodson, managing director of Dubai-based energy consultancy BluePearl Management, said: “The terrorist attacks in the UAE and Saudi Arabia in the last two days on the oil and gas industry are very disturbing and alarming. It is difficult to believe they are not related and coordinated given the timing of these events and their concentration on the regional oil sector.

“It is an ominous security concern to see how to adequately protect the extensive and diversely located oil and gas infrastructure whether in the Kingdom or elsewhere in the region,” he added.

Robin Mills, chief executive of Qamar Energy, a Dubai consultancy, said that the pipeline marked an “odd” target.
“Pipelines are quite easy to repair. But this and the Fujairah incident threaten … Saudi export routes,” he said. “So far it is just a threat rather than a danger.”

Independent energy expert Anas AlHajji tweeted: “The attack on pumping stations … is significant. It reflects the realization that these pipelines replace the passage through the Strait of Hormuz. In other words, these pipelines reduce Iran’s ability to influence oil flow in the Strait.
“The attacks on ships on Sunday and the attack on pumping stations today indicate one thing: The planners chose the weakest spots. Therefore, it cannot be the work of a few angry people,” he added.

Before the attack in Saudi Arabia was confirmed, Al Masirah, a Yemen TV channel alegedly run by the Iran-aligned Houthis, said the militia had launched drone attacks on Saudi installations, without identifying the targets or the time of the attacks. Bizarrely, that claim was later retracted, with the Houthis saying the attack was launched from within Saudi Arabia, according to Al Arabiya television.

Analysts have been increasing their forecasts for oil prices in light of the increased regional tension, despite threats to global economic growth due to the US-China trade row.

Hodson said: “These attacks … are likely to push oil prices in a slightly higher direction but probably not that much unless additional and larger attacks take place.”


 

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@Eagle1

a site i found to monitor live naval traffic around the world


could be helpful to the topic at hand. also shows ship types.
Uncategorised vessels could be military
 

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Tanker attacks near UAE expose weaknesses in Gulf Arab security
May 15, 2019
by Stephen Kalin, Alexander Cornwell, Dahlia Nehme

RIYADH/DUBAI (Reuters) - Attacks on Saudi tankers and other vessels off the coast of the United Arab Emirates this week expose vulnerabilities in the security of a key oil-shipping route amid rising tensions between the United States, Iran and Gulf Arab states.

The operation near the Strait of Hormuz appeared designed to test the resolve of the United States and its Sunni Muslim allies without triggering a war, after Washington tightened sanctions on Iran and beefed up its military presence nearby.

The UAE has not characterized the sabotage or blamed anyone, but U.S. national security agencies believe proxies sympathetic to or working for Iran may have been behind it, a U.S. official has said. Tehran has distanced itself from the incident, which no one has claimed.

“This is a pin-prick event, a little needle-like jab at the maritime trade going into the Strait of Hormuz,” said Gerry Northwood, chairman of risk management and security firm MAST.

The attack took place off Fujairah emirate, just outside the Strait, a narrow waterway separating Iran from the Arabian Peninsula where a fifth of global oil consumption passes from Middle East producers.

Two days later, Saudi Arabia said armed drones had hit two oil pumping stations in the kingdom, an attack claimed by the Iran-aligned Houthis in neighboring Yemen.

The U.S. Navy’s Bahrain-based Fifth Fleet is tasked with protecting commercial ships in the area. The British and French navies maintain a presence, while Saudi Arabia and the UAE have high-tech naval capacities.

But Gulf Arab states are struggling to build an effective system to defend against drones and low-tech sabotage attempts, Eurasia Group said in a note.

“There are hundreds, if not a few thousand, small boats moving in that area every day. Many of these vessels are smugglers operating between Iran and the Gulf states,” said Norman Roule, a retired senior U.S. intelligence officer.

“This will make it difficult, but not impossible, to trace any small vessels which may have been involved in the operation.”

Port security in Dubai, the region’s trading hub, was unchanged, a spokeswoman for the government media office said.
But the UAE may still face pressure to increase patrols.

“The UAE needs to send a signal to reassure the shipping industry that Fujairah is safe and this is not going to happen again,” a Western diplomat in Abu Dhabi said.

Navigational data indicated at least some of the ships may have been within nine nautical miles of the shore, well within UAE territorial sea. Saudi Arabia’s energy minister has said at least one of them was further out, in the UAE’s exclusive economic zone where international law largely applies.

Reuters and other journalists taken on a tour off the Fujairah coast saw a hole at the waterline in the hull of a Norwegian ship, with the metal torn inwards. A Saudi tanker they viewed showed no sign of major damage.

Maritime security sources told Reuters that images suggest the damage was likely caused by limpet mines attached close to the waterline with less than 4 kg of explosives. One source said the level of coordination and use of mines were likely to rule out militant groups such as al Qaeda.

“It’s not those guys seeking publicity, it’s someone who wants to make a point without necessarily pointing in any given direction,” said Jeremy Binnie, Middle East and Africa editor for Jane’s Defence Weekly. “It’s below the threshold (for war).”

Jean-Marc Rickli, head of global risk and resilience at the Geneva Centre for Security Policy, said the attacks could be a message that Iran has means to disrupt traffic.

Saudi state oil company Aramco said output and exports were not disrupted by the attack on the pumping stations, but it temporarily shut the East-West pipeline to evaluate its condition.

RED LINE
Both attacks targeted alternative routes for oil to bypass Hormuz. Fujairah port is a terminal of the crude pipeline from Abu Dhabi’s Habshan oilfields. The Saudi East-West line takes crude from eastern fields to Yanbu port, north of Bab al-Mandeb.

The commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards said last year that Tehran would block exports through the waterway if countries heeded U.S. calls to stop buying Iranian oil.

U.S. officials have said closing the Strait would be crossing a “red line” and pledged action to reopen it.

The waterway separates Iran and Oman, linking the Gulf to the Gulf of Oman and Arabian Sea. The Strait is 21 miles (33 km) wide at its narrowest point, but the shipping lane is just two miles (three km) wide in either direction.

Even during the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq war, when the two sides sought to disrupt oil exports by attacking ships in what was known as the Tanker War, shipping did not stop although insurance rates spiked.

JBC Energy Research Centre said Fujairah would continue to be seen as a reliable bunkering hub, especially with a U.S. strike group arriving in the region and navies from Britain, France and China available to assist.
“No matter who is behind this,” Rickli said, “it contributes to heightened tensions in the region and leads to a situation where an incident could trigger a larger response.”

Additional reporting by Bozorg Sharafedin and Jonathan Saul in London, Rania El Gamal in Dubai and Eric Knecht in Doha; Writing by Stephen Kalin; Editing by Ghaida Ghantous and Dale Hudson

 

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Iran will defeat the American and Israeli alliance: Iranian defence minister
May 15, 2019

GENEVA (Reuters) - Iran will defeat the American and Israeli alliance, Iranian Defence Minister Amir Hatami said on Wednesday, according to the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA).

“We will defeat the American-Zionist front,” he said.

“Iran has the highest level of defense-military preparedness to confront any type of threat and excessive demands,” he added.

The United States has sent further military forces to the Middle East, including an aircraft carrier, B-52 bombers and Patriot missiles, in a show of force against what U.S. officials say are Iranian threats to its troops and interests in the region.

Separately on Wednesday, a senior Iranian official told Reuters that Tehran was ready for all scenarios from “confrontation to diplomacy” but the United States could not afford another war in the Middle East.

Washington ordered the departure of non-emergency government employees from Iraq on Wednesday after repeated U.S. expressions of concern about alleged danger posed by Iranian-backed forces.

Israel will stand with the United States to confront Iran, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Tuesday.

“We are united in our desire to stop Iranian aggression,” he said. “Israel and all the countries of the region and all the countries who seek peace in the world should stand together with the United States against Iranian aggression.”

Reporting by Babak Dehghanpisheh in Geneva and Dan Williams in Jerusalem Editing by Mark Heinrich

 

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U.S. pulls staff from Iraq amid concerns over Iran
May 15, 2019
John Davison, Raya Jalabi

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Washington ordered the departure of non-emergency American employees from its diplomatic missions in Iraq on Wednesday in another show of concern about alleged threats from Iran.

President Donald Trump’s administration is applying new sanctions pressure on Tehran and sending additional forces to the Middle East to counter what it says is a heightened threat from Iran to U.S. soldiers and interests in the region.

Iran calls that “psychological warfare”, and a British commander cast doubt on U.S. military concerns about threats to its roughly 5,000 soldiers in Iraq, who have been helping local security forces fight Islamic State jihadists.

The U.S. State Department said employees at both the U.S. embassy in Baghdad and its consulate in Erbil, capital of semi-autonomous Kurdistan region, were being pulled out immediately due to safety concerns.

It was unclear how many personnel were affected, and there was no word on any specific threat. Visa services were suspended at the heavily-fortified U.S. missions.

“Ensuring the safety of U.S. government personnel and citizens is our highest priority ... and we want to reduce the risk of harm,” a State Department spokesman said.

Also on Wednesday, Germany, which has 160 soldiers in Iraq, suspended military training operations, citing increasing regional tensions. And the Netherlands suspended a mission providing assistance to Iraqi local authorities, Dutch news agency ANP said.

“DANGEROUS SITUATION”
Both the United States and Iran have said they do not want war, and Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi said on Tuesday he had indications “things will end well” despite the rhetoric.

Iraq has said it will keep strong ties with Iran, but also with the United States and regional neighbours, some of whom, like Saudi Arabia, consider Tehran an arch-rival.

“I think we are now in a quite dangerous situation where a miscalculation by either side could lead us into conflict,” U.S. Senator Chris Coons, a Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told CNN in an interview on Wednesday.

“When you project force into a very volatile region and you’ve got real tension between Iran and the Saudis — we have to be careful. We need a strategy,” Coons said, echoing a call by Congress for the government to brief lawmakers.

The State Department reissued travel advisory for Iraq saying U.S. citizens were at high risk of violence and kidnapping. “Anti-U.S. sectarian militias may also threaten U.S. citizens and Western companies throughout Iraq,” it said.

A senior Iranian official said on Wednesday that any conflict in the region will have “unimaginable consequences.”

Reporting by John Davison and Ahmed Rasheed in Baghdad, Raya Jalabi in Erbil; Additional reporting by Susan Heavy and Makini Brice in Washington; Writing by Raya Jalabi and John Davison; Editing by Catherine Evans and Andrew Cawthorne

 

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Pakistani leaders call attack on Saudi oil facilities attack on Pakistan
1582461-1689751850 - Copy.jpg

A picture taken on May 13, 2019 off the coast of the Gulf emirate of Fujairah shows reporters taking images of the Saudi oil tanker Al-Marzoqah, one of the four tankers damaged in alleged "sabotage attacks" in the Gulf the previous day. Saudi Arabia said two of its oil tankers were damaged in mysterious "sabotage attacks" in the Gulf as tensions soared in a region already shaken by a standoff between the United States and Iran. (Source - Emirati National Media Council)

Updated 15 May 2019
Arab News
May 14, 2019

  • "This is sheer act of terrorism," ruling party lawmaker Vawda says
  • Attack on two oil pumping stations by bomb-carrying drones caused a fire, now contained
ISLAMABAD: Major Pakistani political parties on Tuesday condemned an attack on two Saudi oil pumping stations by bomb-carrying drones, just days after four tankers were attacked at anchor off the UAE coast, saying the enemies of Saudi Arabia were tantamount to being the enemies of Pakistan.

The energy minister of the world’s largest oil exporter said the attack caused a fire, now contained, and minor damage at one pump station, but did not disrupt oil output or exports of crude and petroleum products.

Saudi Aramco later confirmed the attack in a statement, stating that it had “responded to a fire at East West Pipeline Pump station 8 which was caused by a sabotage incident using armed drones which targeted pump stations 8 and 9.”

Federal minister and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf leader Faisal Vawda condemned the attack and said Pakistan, itself a major victim of terrorism, would stand by the Kingdom.

"This is sheer act of terrorism which should be strongly condemned by the world community," he said. "We have strong bonds with Saudi Arabia and have always been on its side whenever terrorists have tried to destabilize it."

“Attacking Saudi Arabia is like attacking Pakistan,” opposition Pakistan Peoples Party leader Senator Sehar Kamran told Arab News. “Saudi Aramco recently announced it would establish a $10 bn oil refinery in Pakistan. This is a huge investment. Attacking Aramco is not only an attack on Saudi Arabia’s interests but also the interests of Pakistan.”

“Pakistan stands with the Saudi Arabia as per our commitment that Pakistan will always stand by the kingdom,” she said, calling on Muslim states united agains forces that wanted to harm Saudi Arabia.

Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PMLN) leader Senator Mushahidullah Khan called for an investigation into the attack.

“Saudi Aramco is investing in Pakistan. Some forces don’t want the region to prosper,” he said, calling it part of a greater game against the development and prosperity of the region.

“These attacks prove again that it is important for us to face terrorist entities, including the Houthi militias in Yemen that are backed by Iran,” Saudi Minister of Energy Khalid A. Al-Falih said in comments to the media.

A Saudi-led coalition has been battling the Houthis militia for four years in Yemen to try to restore the internationally recognised government.

Pakistan’s Jamaat-e-Islami party’s secretary foreign affairs, Abdul Ghaffar Aziz, said Houthi rebels in Yemen had already done serious damage to the region and its people by revolting against an elected government.

“They had attacked oil tankers a few days ago,” Aziz said. “Now this attack is like playing with fire as such attacks can ignite a dangerous war in the region.”

 

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France Slams ‘Unacceptable’ Houthi Attack on Saudi Oil Stations
15 May, 2019
[IMG]

France condemns the Houthi attack against Saudi oil installations. (EPA file photo)

Asharq Al-Awsat

France slammed on Wednesday the “unacceptable” attack by the Iran-backed Houthi militias against Saudi oil installations.

“France strongly condemns the attacks carried out by drones against Saudi oil installations, claimed by the Houthis. These attacks, which undermine Saudi Arabia’s security and the stability of the region, are an unacceptable act,” foreign ministry spokeswoman Agnes von der Muhll said in a statement.

“France calls on all parties to refrain from any escalation likely to jeopardize the political process to bring an end to the Yemeni conflict,” she added.

Saudi Arabia said armed drones struck two of its oil pumping stations on Tuesday, two days after the sabotage of oil tankers near the United Arab Emirates.


 

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Iran threat: US Senator warns Tehran against attack – ‘TWO strikes’ and US would WIN
A US Senator has stoked up escalating tensions with Iran as he proclaimed America would be able to win a war with the Middle Eastern country “in two strikes”.
By Ciaran McGrath
May 15, 2019

I’m simply delivering the message that if Iran were to attack the United States, it would be a grave miscalculation
Senator Tom Cotton

He said: “I’m simply delivering the message that if Iran were to attack the United States, it would be a grave miscalculation on their part and there would be a furious response.

“What I want is to have an outlaw regime change its behaviour, to rejoin the civilised world and stop supporting terrorism and trying to overthrow the governments of so many of its neighbours.

“Ultimately it’s up to the Iranian people and their leaders to decide how they’re going to govern their country, but with men like those in charge of Iran, I think we’re going to see what we’ve seen for the last 40 years, which is a revolutionary theological movement that’s hijacked the powers of a nation-state.”

The New York Times yesterday reported President Donald Trump was ready to deploy 120,000 US troops to the Middle East if Iran launches attacks on US forces in the region or goes through with its threat to resume work on nuclear weapons.

Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan was said to be pushing an updated military plan to Mr Trump’s top security aids at a meeting last week.
The plan would include a commitment to a massive troop deployment if the Pentagon to counter perceived Iranian aggression.

Questioned about the possibility today, Mr Trump confused reporters by denying the report before adding: “Would I do that? Absolutely.”

Relations between Iran and the United States have worsened since Mr Trump pulled out of 2015’s Joint Plan of Comprehensive Action (JPOCA), an international deal to curb Iran’s nuclear activities, with Washington imposing increasingly strict sanctions on Tehran.

Iran has officially stopped some commitments under the JPOCA with world powers after an order from its national security council, an informed official in the country’s atomic energy body told the ISNA news agency today.

Last week, Iran notified China, France, Germany, Russia and the United Kingdom of its decision to halt some commitments under the nuclear deal, a year after the United States unilaterally withdrew from the accord and re-imposed sanctions.

To compound matters, Saudi Arabia yesterday said armed drones had struck two oil pumping stations in the kingdom on Tuesday in what it called a “cowardly” act of terrorism two days after Saudi oil tankers were sabotaged off the coast of the United Arab Emirates.

Asked about Sunday’s blasts, Mr Trump warned Iran would “suffer greatly” in the event of a conflict between the two countries, stressing there would be a “bad problem for Iran if something happens”.

Washington ordered the departure of non-emergency American employees from its diplomatic missions in Iraq on Wednesday in another show of concern about alleged threats from Iran.

UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said British officials are worried about the risk of a conflict between the US and Iran which neither side intends.
Mr Hunt told reporters in Brussels: “We are very worried about the risk of a conflict happening by accident, with an escalation that is unintended really on either side but ends with some kind of conflict.

“What we need is a period of calm to make sure that everyone understands what the other side is thinking.”

 

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UAE says it will show restraint after tanker attacks, Iran's behavior a concern
May 15, 2019
Rania El Gamal, Aziz El Yaakoubi

DUBAI (Reuters) - The United Arab Emirates will show restraint after attacks on oil tankers off its coast and is committed to de-escalation during a “difficult situation” caused by Iranian behavior in the region, a senior official said on Wednesday.

Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash said he would not speculate about who was behind Sunday’s sabotage acts on four vessels, including two Saudi tankers, near Fujairah emirate while an investigation was under way and due to be completed within days.

“We need to emphasize caution and good judgment. It is easy to throw accusations but it is a difficult situation, there are serious issues and among them is Iranian behavior,” he said, mentioning concern about Iran’s missiles and regional policy.

“We will actually with our partners also be deliberate in considering our response, what to do about it, how to deal with it,” he said, adding the United States and France were helping with the probe.

France has a naval base in Abu Dhabi.

A UAE official had told Reuters that Saudi Arabia and Norway were also involved. A Norwegian-registered oil products tanker was among the vessels hit, along with a UAE fuel bunker barge.

Iran has distanced itself from the attack off Fujairah, one of the world’s largest bunkering hubs lying just outside the Strait of Hormuz. U.S. officials believe Iran encouraged Yemen’s Houthi group or Iraq-based Shi’ite militias to carry out the attack, two U.S. government sources said on Wednesday.

Gargash said the attack took place in UAE territorial waters but declined to comment on whether the OPEC producer and regional trading hub was beefing up security after the incident.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, in comments after talks with Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahayan, said the most populous country in the Arab world regarded Gulf security as part of its own security.

“The president expressed Egypt’s full solidarity with the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia in confronting all attempts to undermine the security and stability of the two sisterly countries,” Sisi spokesman Bassam Rady said in a statement.

SANCTIONS ARE ‘BITING’
Saudi Arabia shared the concerns of its fellow Sunni Muslim ally that Shi’ite Iran has for a long time been undermining stability in the region, Gargash said, and the U.S. commitment to its allies in the region is “very strong”.

“U.S. sanctions on Iran are biting, and biting in a very effective way,” Gargash said.

The attacks took place against a backdrop of U.S.-Iranian tension following Washington’s decision this month to try to cut Iran’s oil exports to zero and beef up its military presence in the Gulf in response to what it said were Iranian threats.

Saudi Arabia and the UAE back the sanctions against Iran, a fellow OPEC producer but regional foe. After the United States ended sanctions waivers that had allowed some nations to continue importing Iranian crude, Washington said Riyadh and Abu Dhabi would help compensate for any shortage in oil supply.

Tehran has called the U.S. military presence “a target” rather than a threat, and said it would not allow its oil exports to be halted.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has said that “extremist individuals” in the U.S. government were pursuing dangerous policies and that Tehran is not seeking confrontation.

“On Iran, it doesn’t really help to hear Foreign Minister Zarif trying to offer a moderate voice with regards to Iran’s intentions,” Gargash said. “We have been bullied by Iran, we have seen aggressive Iranian actions in the region. So his words are very hollow in that sense.”

Reporting by Rania El Gamal and Aziz El Yaakoubi; Additional reporting by Writing by Ghaida Ghantous; Editing by Toby Chopra and Peter Cooney

 

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Saudi Aramco resumes pumping oil through pipeline hit by drone attack
15 May 2019
Arab News

JEDDAH: Saudi Aramco resumed pumping oil Wednesday through a pipeline hit by a drone attacks the day before.

Two pumping stations on Saudi Arabia’s East-West pipeline were hit in the early morning raid, which was initially claimed by Houthi militants in
Yemen.

Saudi Aramco said oil was again pumping through the pipeline, which joins the Arabia Gulf and Red Sea coast lines, Al Arabiya reported.
On Wednesday, there was further international condemnation of what Saudi Arabia’s energy minister, Khalid Al-Falih, described as “an act of terrorism and sabotage.”

Meanwhile, British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said that the attack “was not just wrong but undermines the trust needed to resolve the conflict,” referring to the situation in Yemen.
But risks remain real. Houthi attack on Saudi yesterday was not just wrong but undermines the trust needed to resolve the conflict. UN Security Council will assess progress today but NOT THE TIME for provocation when we are so close
— Jeremy Hunt (@Jeremy_Hunt) May 15, 2019
France said the attack was an unacceptable act that threatened regional security.

“France strongly condemns the attacks carried out by drones against Saudi oil installations, claimed by the Houthis,” a foreign ministry spokeswoman said.

"France calls on all parties to refrain from any escalation likely to jeopardise the political process to bring an end to the Yemeni conflict," she added.
Pakistan also condemned the attack and expressed "its full support against any threat to stability and security of the Kingdom.”


 

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Eleven Terror Attacks Sought Harming Saudi Oil Facilities
15 May, 2019


Armed Houthi followers carry their rifles as they attend a gathering to show support for the Houthi movement in Sanaa, Yemen December 19, 2018. REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah

Riyadh- Saleh Al- Zayed

Iran, using regional proxies, has been gradually scaling up its attacks against Saudi oil targets since 2003.

In total eleven terror attempts have targeted Saudi Arabian oil facilities within the last 16 years. Al Qaeda, ISIS, and Houthis have each staged attacks against the kingdom. The latest in a series of terror-linked violence was a multiple drone attack which hit Aramco oil stations in each of the Al Duawadimi and Afif districts in Riyadh.

It is worth noting that the attacks came a day after officials in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates claimed four oil tankers were damaged by “sabotage” suspected to have been carried out by Iran or its allied proxies.

Drone terror attacks by Houthis against the pumping stations is reminiscent of previous attempts, such as the abortive attack which attempted to blow up a platform and an Aramco oil distribution station in April 2017 in the Saudi port city of Jizan.

Two oil tankers belonging to the Saudi national shipping company in the Red Sea were attacked by Yemen's Houthi militia after crossing the Bab al-Mandab Strait in 2018 as well.

One of the earliest attacks on oil installations and pipelines in Saudi Arabia was staged by car suicide bombers who detonated in an oil refinery in eastern Saudi Arabia, killing a security man and thwarting Saudi Arabia in November.

In 2007 an imminent attack plotted against a backup oil facility in Saudi Arabia’s eastern region was thwarted, where a cell of eight people led by a resident in Saudi Arabia was arrested.

In 1987, members of the Iran-backed Hezbollah Al-Hejaz set arson at a facility in the Ras Tanura oil complex in eastern Saudi Arabia. In the same year, terrorists from the same group attacked property at the SADAF Petrochemical Complex in the eastern Saudi city of Jubail.

Saudi security servicemen have also thwarted attacks which sought to blow up an oil pipeline in the Al Duawadimi district in Riyadh. The terror cell had received instructions from a Syria-based intermediary in Syria.


 

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CENTCOM Heightens Alertness Over 'Eminent Threats'
Thursday, 16 May, 2019


A US flag hangs from blast barriers guarding the entrance to the dining facility inside the compound of the US embassy in Baghdad (Reuters)

Washington - Heba al-Qodsi

US State Department officials told Asharq Al-Awsat that according to intelligence reports there are no indications that Iran will retreat from its threats, citing possible plans to attack US targets in the region.

This comes following the Department 's statement ordering the departure of non-emergency US Government employees from Iraq, both at the Embassy in Baghdad and the Consulate in Erbil.

“Normal visa services at both posts will be temporarily suspended. The US government has limited ability to provide emergency services to US citizens in Iraq,” read the statement.

Despite Washington's statements of fears of attack, deputy commander for the US-led coalition against ISIS Maj. Gen. Chris Ghika told reporters at a Pentagon news briefing there has been no increased threat from Iranian-backed forces in Iraq and Syria.

“We are monitoring the militia groups carefully and if the threat level perceives to go up, we will raise our force protection levels accordingly.”

The British general's remarks revealed a possible international divergence over the US military buildup in the Middle East.

Later on Tuesday, US Central Command (CENTCOM) issued a statement saying Ghika's comments “run counter to the identified credible threats” of Iranian-backed forces in the region.

“US Central Command, in coordination with Operation Inherent Resolve, has increased the force posture level for all service members assigned to Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR) in Iraq and Syria,” the statement says.

“As a result, OIR is now at a high level of alert as we continue to closely monitor credible and possibly imminent threats to US forces in Iraq.”

CENTCOM spokesman Capt. Bill Urban said the coalition is “now at a high level of alert” as it continues to monitor “possibly imminent” threats to US forces in Iraq.

At a campaign rally on Tuesday evening, US President Donald Trump emphasized what is becoming one of the hallmarks of his hardline foreign policy, telling supporters that his administration was "holding dangerous regimes accountable by denying them oil revenue to fund their corruption, oppression and terror."

Analysts noted that Trump did not use Twitter to announce his position on Iran so far, likely that the President is not currently considering war.

Some analysts in Washington ruled out the possibility that US military moves could bring Iran to the negotiating table or hold talks to modify the nuclear deal, but made clear that Washington could update previous covert operations, such as launching an electronic attack to disrupt Iranian nuclear operations or its electricity networks.

Some analysts said that the rising tensions and successive US military moves indicate that Washington wants Iran to take the first step, and accordingly US will launch military strikes on the pretext of self-defense, although almost all EU representatives, the United Nations, China, Russia and many other countries will oppose a war between the United States and Iran.

Ilan Goldenberg, Director of the Middle East Security Program at the Center for a New American Security, stated that no one wants the war, and US escalation aims to push Iran into realizing that a direct confrontation could be suicidal.

Goldenberg noted that “hawks” in Washington believe diplomacy with Iran is futile, and that the Iranian regime will only respond to enormous economic pressure and military force, if necessary.

In the US Congress, many legislators have complained that the Trump administration does not share information with them on rising tensions with Iran. Democratic and Republican members also demanded briefings with senior officials on Iran's threats and how the administration handles them.

Sen. Bob Menendez told reporters the administration should provide classified briefings and public hearings for the people to better understand what is going on.

“If Iran is responsible for targeted attacks on our service members stationed around the region or any of our national-security assets, we should, of course, respond appropriately and in a way that deters and prevents further assaults,” Menendez added.



 

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Kuwait Condemns Before UN Security Council Attack on Oil Pumping Stations in Saudi Arabia
16 May, 2019


Saudi Aramco's Natural Gas Liquids plant in the remote Empty Quarter near the United Arab Emirates. (AFP)

Asharq Al-Awsat

Kuwait has condemned in the "strongest words possible", a Houthi attack on the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia's oil facilities, pledging full support for security measures assumed by the Kingdom.

The remarks were delivered in a speech by the Kuwaiti permanent UN mission's Acting Charge d'Affaires Bader Al-Menaikh at a Security Council session on Yemen, the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported.

The continuing Houthi group's attacks on Saudi territory represent a "clear and direct threat" to regional security and stability, he said, mentioning this necessitates enacting relevant Security Council weapon ban resolutions.

He praised the "pivotal role" assumed by the UN inspectors deployed to monitor the implementation of the Stockholm agreement, and the subsequent Houthi withdrawal from the strategic port of Hodeidah, Al-Saleef and Ras Issa.

Despite this, he expressed disappointment as regards the developments over the agreement, explaining that, up to this point, it has "not achieved its intended goals". For instance, the city of Taiz , in the southwest has remained besieged for four years now, as civilians there suffer without the situation being resolved, he said.

According to SPA, he also lamented challenges faced by the committee tasked with overseeing the prisoner swap deal.

Kuwait went on to reiterate its praise of the UN special envoy to Yemen's efforts on the crisis, underlining that the "ideal solution" was the complete implementation of the three-point agreement and the ruling out of a military option.

This would enable focusing on matters related to ending the crisis and adopting the Gulf Cooperation Council initiative and steps for national dialogue, he said.


 

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