Saudi coalition blames Iran for drone strike that crippled oil output

A Saudi-led coalition believes Iran was responsible for drone strikes that crippled the nation's oil production.

A Saudi-led coalition believes Iran was responsible for drone strikes that crippled the nation's oil production. Photo: Getty

A Saudi-led coalition in Yemen says Iranian weapons were used in the weekend strike on Saudi Arabian oil facilities but Iran continues to deny any involvement.

An attack on Saudi Arabia that triggered the biggest jump in oil prices in almost 30 years was carried out with Iranian weapons, the Saudi-led coalition says.

US President Donald Trump said on Monday that Washington was “locked and loaded” to hit back.

The Iran-aligned Houthi group that controls Yemen’s capital claimed responsibility for the attack, which knocked out more than half of Saudi Arabia’s oil production and damaged the world’s biggest crude processing plant.

Iran has denied US accusations it was to blame and said it is ready for “full-fledged war”.

Two sources briefed on state oil company Saudi Aramco’s operations told Reuters it might take months for Saudi oil production to return to normal. Earlier estimates had suggested it could take weeks.

A Saudi-led military alliance battling the Houthis said Saturday’s attack on the Saudi oil plants was done with Iranian weapons and was not launched from Yemen, according to preliminary findings.

Coalition spokesman Colonel Turki al-Malki said an investigation into Saturday’s strikes, which knocked out 5 per cent of world crude output, would determine the launch location.

“The preliminary results show that the weapons are Iranian and we are currently working to determine the location … The terrorist attack did not originate from Yemen as the Houthi militia claimed,” Colonel Malki said in Riyadh.

UN Yemen envoy Martin Griffiths told the Security Council on Monday it was “not entirely clear” who was behind the strike. But it had increased the chances of a regional conflict, he said.

The US ambassador to the UN, Kelly Craft, told the Security Council that emerging information on the attacks “indicates that responsibility lies with Iran” and that there was no evidence it came from Yemen.

Iran has dismissed as “unacceptable” US accusations that Tehran was responsible.

Oil prices surged by as much as 19 per cent following the attacks, before sliding back. The intraday jump was the biggest since the 1990-91 Gulf crisis that followed Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait.

Prices eased after Mr Trump said he would release US emergency supplies and producers said there were enough stocks held worldwide to make up for the shortfall.

But traders still spoke of a long-term price increase as markets absorb the proof that global supply can be so sharply hit.

“There is reason to believe that we know the culprit, are locked and loaded depending on verification, but are waiting to hear from the Kingdom as to who they believe was the cause of this attack, and under what terms we would proceed!” Mr Trump said on Twitter on Sunday.

US Energy Secretary Rick Perry pinned the blame squarely on Iran for “an attack on the global economy and the global energy market”.

“The United States wholeheartedly condemns Iran’s attack on Saudi Arabia and we call on other nations to do the same,” he said in a speech at an annual meeting in Vienna of the UN nuclear watchdog IAEA.

He added that he was confident the oil market “is resilient and will respond positively”.

While Iran has denied blame, its Yemeni allies have promised more strikes to come.

Houthi military spokesman Yahya Sarea said the group carried out Saturday’s pre-dawn attack with drones, including some powered by jet engines.

US officials say they believe the attacks came from the opposite direction, possibly from Iran itself rather than Yemen, and might have involved cruise missiles.

Russia and China have said it was wrong to jump to conclusions about the blame for the weekend strikes.

Britain – a close ally of Washington but wary of its hardline Iran policy – stopped short of ascribing blame but described the assault as a “wanton violation of international law”.


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