Tag Archives: Drone attack

How Yemen’s Houthis are bringing down a Goliath, by Pepe Escobar

So far the US government’s assertions that Iran was really behind the drone and missile attack on the Saudi Arabian oil installation have been evidence-free, and you have to figure that if it had evidence it would have been made public by now. The realization that the Middle East’s poorest nation can bring down it’s richest goes down very hard with the US establishment. From Pepe Escobar at thesaker.is:

An image taken from a video made available on July 7, 2019 by the press office of the Yemeni Shiite Houthi group shows ballistic missiles, labeled ‘Made in Yemen,’ at a recent exhibition of missiles and drones at an undisclosed location in Yemen. Footage showed models of at least 15 unmanned drones and missiles of different sizes and ranges. Photo: AFP/ Al-Houthi Group Media Office

“It is clear to us that Iran bears responsibility for this attack. There is no other plausible explanation. We support ongoing investigations to establish further details.”

The statement above was not written by Franz Kafka. In fact, it was written by a Kafka derivative: Brussels-based European bureaucracy. The Merkel-Macron-Johnson trio, representing Germany, France and the UK, seems to know what no “ongoing investigation” has unearthed: that Tehran was definitively responsible for the twin aerial strikes on Saudi oil installations.

“There is no other plausible explanation” translates as the occultation of Yemen. Yemen only features as the pounding ground of a vicious Saudi war, de facto supported by Washington and London and conducted with US and UK weapons, which has generated a horrendous humanitarian crisis.

So Iran is the culprit, no evidence provided, end of story, even if the “investigation continues.”

Hassan Ali Al-Emad, Yemeni scholar and the son of a prominent tribal leader with ascendance over ten clans, begs to differ. “From a military perspective, nobody ever took our forces in Yemen seriously. Perhaps they started understanding it when our missiles hit Aramco.”

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How Holes in the Burning Saudi Oil Fields Narrative Could Draw the US Into a War With Iran, by Mnar Muhawesh

The US government insists that Iran was behind the attack on the Saudi Arabian oil field, not the Houthis who are claiming credit for the attack. From Mnar Muhawesh at mintpressnews.com:

Tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran are escalating to new heights, drawing the United States into a confrontation with the Islamic Republic after a sophisticated attack targeted Saudi Arabia’s Aramco oil facility — the largest oil processing facility in the world — knocking out half of the country’s oil capacity, or more than 5 million barrels a day, and leaving the oil fields in flames.

The attack was nothing the Kingdom had seen before or expected: According to U.S. and Saudi intel, 18 drones and seven cruise missiles were launched and went undetected by both American and Saudi radar systems. The weaponry even went unnoticed by the U.S. military base nearby, the Prince Sultan Airbase, which is guarded by an American Patriot missile defense system and over 500 U.S. military personnel.

You better believe an attack at this level targeting a crossroad for global oil supplies did more than ruffle a few feathers.

Panic not only struck the Kingdom and the international economy, where oil prices spiked 19 percent — the highest ever recorded one-day increase — but U.S. and Saudi politicians, as well as a chorus of mainstream pundits, began to beat the drums of war targeting an old foe: Iran.

Saudi and U.S. military analysts have presented satellite images of where the missiles landed in the oil fields, purporting to show that the drones/missiles came from the direction of Iran. However, some experts are already countering these claims, pointing out that the images show impact points that are indeed west-northwest, which is the opposite direction of Iran.

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U.S. Ships More Air Defense Systems That Do Not Work To Saudi Arabia, by Moon of Alabama

The elephant in the room concerning the strike on the Saudi Arabian oil installation is Saudi Arabia’s air defenses. From Moon of Alabama at moonofalabama.com:

he Washington Post notices Russia’s offer to sell its air defense systems to Saudi Arabia. It does not like that:

The attack on Saudi Arabian oil facilities last weekend were a disaster for both Riyadh and Washington, with weapons allegedly made in Iran circumventing expensive U.S. missile defense systems.But in Moscow, news of the attack was greeted as yet another chance to mock the United States and its allies — all while extolling the virtues of Russia’s own missile defense technology.

“We still remember the fantastic U.S. missiles that failed to hit a target more than a year ago, while now the brilliant U.S. air defense systems could not repel an attack,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told a briefing on Friday. “These are all links in a chain.”

The Yemeni attack on Saudi oil installations caused serious damage (more photos). In Abqaiq at least five of nine stabilization columns were destroyed. These are needed to make crude oil transportable. The three phase separators that separate the fluids into gas, oil and water were likewise eliminated. Most of the gas storage tanks at Abqaiq were penetrated.


biggerSome 5,000 additional workers are now racing to repair the damage. It will still take weeks if not months to get everything up and running again.

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The Saudis Get a Taste of Their Own Medicine, by Eric S. Margolis

Some skepticism that the Houthis were behind the attack on the Saudi Arabian oil installation is certainly justified, but it may not have been Iran, either. From Eric S. Margolis at lewrockwell.com:

The Mideast has its own variety of crazy humor.  The Saudis have been blasting and bombing wretched Yemen, one of this world’s poorest nations, since 2015.

These US-supported attacks and a naval blockade of Yemen imposed by Saudi Arabia and its sidekick ally, the United Arab Emirates, have caused mass starvation.  No one knows how many Yemenis have died or are currently starving.  Estimates run from 250,000 to one million.

The black humor?  The Saudis just claimed they were victims of Iranian `aggression’ this past week after the kingdom’s leading oil treatment facility at Abqaiq was hit by a flight of armed drones or cruise missiles.  The usual American militarists, now led by State Secretary Mike Pompeo after the demented warmonger, John Bolton, was finally fired, are calling for military retaliation against Iran even though the attack was claimed by Yemen’s Shia Houthi movement.

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How the Houthis overturned the chessboard, by Pepe Escobar

If the Houthis were indeed behind the Saudi Arabian oil installation attack, even if they used Iranian technology they are an object lesson in the ongoing decentralization of violence. It’s been happening, mostly under the radar, for decades—decentralized individuals and groups using relatively inexpensive weapons to stymy and in some cases defeat well-armed governments. From Pepe Escobar at thesaker.is:

The Yemeni Shiite group’s spectacular attack on Abqaiq raises the distinct possibility of a push to drive the House of Saud from power

A Yemeni Shiite man holds his weapon and a flag with an Arabic inscription reading ‘Disgrace is far from us,’ as he takes part in a religious procession held by Houthi rebels to mark the first day of Ashura. Photo: Hani Al-Ansi/dpa

We are the Houthis and we’re coming to town. With the spectacular attack on Abqaiq, Yemen’s Houthis have overturned the geopolitical chessboard in Southwest Asia – going as far as introducing a whole new dimension: the distinct possibility of investing in a push to drive the House of Saud out of power.

Blowback is a bitch. Houthis – Zaidi Shiites from northern Yemen – and Wahhabis have been at each other’s throats for ages. This book is absolutely essential to understand the mind-boggling complexity of Houthi tribes; as a bonus, it places the turmoil in southern Arabian lands way beyond a mere Iran-Saudi proxy war.

Still, it’s always important to consider that Arab Shiites in the Eastern province – working in Saudi oil installations – have got to be natural allies of the Houthis fighting against Riyadh.

Houthi striking capability – from drone swarms to ballistic missile attacks – has been improving remarkably for the past year or so. It’s not by accident that the UAE saw which way the geopolitical and geoeconomic winds were blowing: Abu Dhabi withdrew from Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman’s vicious war against Yemen and now is engaged in what it describes as a  “peace-first” strategy.

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Attacks On Major Saudi Oil Installations Show Urgent Need For Peace With Yemen, by Moon of Alabama

If the attack on Saudi oil installations came from Yemen, as the Yemenis claim, then Saudi Arabia would be wise to start negotiating with the country it has been unable to defeat after four years, notwithstanding huge advantages in wealth and military capabilities. From Moon of Alabama at moonofalabama.org:

en drones controlled by Yemeni Houthi forces hit two major Saudi oil installations last night and caused several large fires.


biggervideoThe Abqaiq (also Babqaiq) oil processing facility is 60 km (37 miles) southwest of Aramco’s Dhahran headquarters.

The oil processing plant handles crude from the world’s largest conventional oilfield, the supergiant Ghawar, and for export to terminals Ras Tanura – the world’s biggest offshore oil loading facility – and Juaymah. It also pumps westwards across the kingdom to Red Sea export terminals.

The oil and gas conditioning plant in Abqaiq is the largest of the world. It sits at the center of Saudi Arabia’s oil and gas infrastructure.


biggerAbqaiq processes 6.8 million barrels of crude oil each day. More than two thirds of all Saudi oil and gas production runs through it. It is not clear yet how much of the widespread facility was destroyed.


biggerThe second target was a processing plant near Khurais 190 km (118 miles) further southwest. It lies within the countries second largest oil field. Both installations are more than 1,000 km (600 miles) from Yemen.

Saudi Arabia does not have air defenses that protect its oil facilities from attacks from the south.


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Aᴍɪʀ @AmirIGM – 11:34 UTC · Sep 14, 2019This graphic shows Saudi Air Defences around the Abqaiq oil facilities that were struck early Saturday. The drones were well within PAC-2 range, but outside Hawk range. It’s possible that the low-flying or the drones’ small size and composite materials helped it avoid detection.

PAC-2 are older U.S. made air defense systems which can not ‘see’ small drones or cruise missiles.

Satellite images show significant smoke coming from Abqaiq.


biggerThere is smoke coming from four additional oil facilities but it may be from emergency oil flaring that is now necessary because the processing facilities further downstream are blocked or destroyed.

Saudi Arabia said that the fires are under control. Video shot this morning shows that they continue.

In one video taken last night on the ground near the facility one can hear the high pitched noise of a drone motor and then an explosion. In other videos automatic gunfire can be heard. These were probably attempts by guardsmen to take down drones.

But drones may not have been the sole cause of the incident. Last night a Kuwaiti fishermen recorded the noise of a cruise missile or some jet driven manned or unmanned aircraft coming from Iraq. Debris found on the ground in Saudi Arabia seems to be from an Soviet era KH-55 cruise missile or from a Soumar, an Iranian copy of that design. The Houthi have shown cruise missiles, likely from Iran, with a similar design (see below). After an attack on Saudi oil installations in August there were accusations that at least some of the attacks came from Iraq. Iran was accused of having been involved in that attack. While this sounds unlikely it is not inconceivable.

That attack in August was the checkmate move against the Saudi war on Yemen. As we wrote at that time:

Saudi Arabia finally lost the war on Yemen. It has no defenses against the new weapons the Houthis in Yemen acquired. These weapons threaten the Saudis’ economic lifelines.

Saudi Arabia has nothing that could stop mass attacks by these drones. It would require hundreds of Russian made Pantsyr-S1 and BUK air defense systems to protect Saudi oil installations. There would still be no guarantee that they could not be overwhelmed.

New drones and missiles displayed in July 2019 by Yemen’s Houthi-allied armed forces
biggerThe Houthi armed forces spokesman claimed responsibility for today’s attack:

This operation is one of the largest operations carried out by our forces in the depth of Saudi Arabia and came after a accurate intelligence operation and advance monitoring and cooperation of honorable and free men within the Kingdom.

The claim of cooperation by people in Saudi Arabia will make the Saudi rulers even more paranoid than they usually are. It may well be that the drones were launched from inside Saudi Arabia and that their launch point was far nearer to the target than is publicly assumed.

The spokesman continued:

We promise the Saudi regime that our future operations will expand further and be more painful than ever as long as it continues its aggression and siege.We affirm that our goals bank is expanding day by day and that there is no solution for the Saudi regime except to stop the aggression and siege on our country.

The war on Yemen, launched by the Saudi clown prince Mohammad bin Salman in 2015, cost Saudi Arabia several billion dollar per month. The Saudi budget deficit again increased this year and is expected to reach 7% of its GDP.  The country needs fresh money or much higher oil prices.

Saudi Arabia recently renewed plans to sell a share of its state owned oil conglomerate Aramco. Earlier this month the long time Saudi Energy Minister Kalid al-Falih was first demoted and then removed from his position and replaced by Abdulaziz bin Salman, a half-brother of the clown prince:

“The long tradition of the oil minister as a technocrat non-royal has been broken, and the best theory is that departing minister Khalid Al Falih was too resistant to the pace of change pursued by Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman,” wrote Paul Sankey, energy analyst with Mizuho.

The removal of Kalid al-Falih ended the nationalist resistance against the selloff of Aramco and the countries wealth.

But who will buy a share of the company when its major installations are not secure but under severe attacks?

The Saudi clown prince will have to make peace with Yemen before he can sell Aramco shares for a decent price. He will have to cough up many billions in reparation payments to Yemen and its people before the Houthi will be willing to make peace.

First Saudi attempts to sue for peace were made two weeks ago. It seems that they asked the Trump administration to work out an agreement with the Houthi:

The Trump administration is preparing to initiate negotiations with Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in an effort to bring the four-year civil war in Yemen to an end, The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday.The effort is reportedly aimed at convincing Saudi Arabia to take part in secret talks with the rebels in Oman to help broker a cease-fire in the conflict, which has emerged as a front line in the regional proxy war between Riyadh and Tehran.

Nothing has been heard of the initiative since. The Saudis need to move fast to end the war. Unless that happens soon we can expect further escalations and more attacks like the ones earlier today.

The Black Swan Is a Drone, by Charles Hugh Smith

Nothing screams “decentralization of violence” and “the crumbling of centralization” more than $20,000 worth of drones taking out billions of dollars worth of Saudi Arabia’s oil capacity. From Charles Hugh Smith at oftwominds.com:

What was “possible” yesterday is now a low-cost proven capability, and the consequences are far from predictable.

Predictably, the mainstream media is serving up heaping portions of reassurances that the drone attacks on Saudi oil facilities are no big deal and full production will resume shortly. The obvious goal is to placate global markets fearful of an energy disruption that could tip a precarious global economy into recession.

The real impact isn’t on short-term oil prices, it’s on asymmetric warfare: the coordinated drone attack on Saudi oil facilities is a Black Swan event that is reverberating around the world, awakening copycats and exposing the impossibility of defending against low-cost drones of the sort anyone can buy.

(Some published estimates place the total cost of the 10 drones deployed in the strike at $15,000. Highly capable commercially available drones cost around $1,200 each.)

The attack’s success should be a wake-up call to everyone tasked with defending highly flammable critical infrastructure: there really isn’t any reliable defense against a coordinated drone attack, nor is there any reliable way to distinguish between an Amazon drone delivering a package and a drone delivering a bomb.

Whatever authentication protocol that could be required of drones in the future–an ID beacon or equivalent–can be spoofed. For example: bring down an authenticated drone (using nets, etc.), swap out the guidance and payload, and away it goes. Or steal authentication beacons from suppliers, or hack an authenticated drone in flight, land it, swap out the payload–the list of spoofing workaround options is extensive.

This is asymmetric warfare on a new scale: $20,000 of drones can wreak $20 million in damage and financial losses of $200 million–or $2 billion or $20 billion, if global markets are upended.

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