Pompeo Blames Iran for Drone Strike on Saudi Oil Facilities
A drone strike on Saudi Arabian oil facilities has caused massive disruptions in oil production. The Kingdom says that about half the oil production has been halted. That's about 5% of the world's daily oil supply .
Houthi rebels claimed responsibility for the attack. But Secretary of State Mike Pompeo pointed the finger at the the rebels' patrons in Tehran.
But preliminary indications are that the attacks did not originate from Yemen and likely originated from Iraq, according to a source with knowledge of the incident. The same official said the damage was caused by an armed drone attack.
CNN National Security Analyst Peter Bergen said there have been more than 200 drone attacks launched by Houthi rebels from Yemen into Saudi Arabia, and none have been as effective as Saturday's attack, lending credence to the belief that the attack did not originate from Yemen.
Naturally, Iran denies the allegations. But the irony of their denials is exquisite:
"Such blind accusations and inappropriate comments in a diplomatic context are incomprehensible and meaningless," he said, adding: "even hostility needs a certain degree of credibility and reasonable frameworks, US officials have also violated these basic principles."
"Inappropriate comments" from a nation whose officials regularly refer to the U.S. as "Great Satan"? Cue the laugh track.
The Saudi-led war in Yemen to keep the Houthis from taking control has not been going particularly well for the Kingdom. The conflict is extraordinarily dangerous to civilians both because the Houthis use them as human shields and the Saudis are not as careful as they should be where their bombs are dropping. The humanitarian crisis is getting worse with little food, no medicine, and refugees on the move.
Some senators apparently don't understand what's going on in Yemen.
"This is such irresponsible simplification and it's how we get into dumb wars of choice," Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut tweeted in response to Pompeo.
"The Saudis and Houthis are at war," he added. "The Saudis attack the Houthis and the Houthis attack back. Iran is backing the Houthis and has been a bad actor, but it's just not as simple as Houthis=Iran.
Well, yes. Yes it is, senator. There have been more than 200 drone attacks from Houthi rebels on Saudi oil facilities with little to show for it and all of a sudden, a coordinated, pinpoint attack disrupts half the Kingdom's oil output? A drone attack that originated outside of Yemen?
Pardon me, Senator Murphy. Go back to sleep.
Meanwhile, the president was working overtime to try to limit the psychological damage from the attack on world markets:
"The United States strongly condemns today's attack on critical energy infrastructure," Deere said. "Violent actions against civilian areas and infrastructure vital to the global economy only deepen conflict and mistrust."
The US government "remains committed to ensuring global oil markets are stable and well supplied," the spokesman said.
A Department of Energy official told CNN that the Strategic Petroleum Oil Reserves "holds 630 million barrels...for exactly this purpose." Secretary Rick Perry "stands ready to deploy resources from the Strategic Petroleum Oil Reserves if necessary to offset any disruptions to oil markets."
We don't need Saudi oil but most of the rest of the world does. Some analysts are predicting oil at $100/bbl. again, which would have a very bad effect on the world economy. There may be some sort of symbolic release of the oil reserves this week -- a few tens of millions of barrels -- just to quiet the markets.
Local media in Iran is touting the notion that the Saudi disruption proves the world needs Iranian oil. Iran will soon discover we don't need it that badly.