Major crisis brewing in Gulf over drone attacks in Saudi Arabia

New Delhi, Sep 20 (IANS) A major crisis is brewing in the Gulf in the wake of the drone attacks on oil facilities in Saudi Arabia by Yemens rebel Houthi group, which has reportedly threatened to carry out further strikes in the Kingdom as well as in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
A worried UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has warned of “devastating” consequences for the region and the world if the crisis escalates. A UN team of experts has been dispatched to Saudi Arabia to investigate the weekend attack on two oil facilities of Aramco amid assertions by the US and Saudi Arabia that Iran was behind the hit.
With the tensions between the US and Iran already on the rise, the latest development has triggered fears of a major conflagration.
US President Donald Trump, while attacking Iran, said he has a “lot of options” to deal with the Persian nation. “I’m not looking to get into new conflict, but sometimes you have to,” he said.
He has ordered sanctions against Iran to be increased “substantially” in the aftermath of the attack on a Saudi oil field and the world’s largest crude oil processing plant in which crude oil production to the tune of 5.7 million barrels per day were knocked out.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo termed the attack as an “act of war” and said Saudi Arabia has the “right to defend itself”.
His comments on Wednesday came during his visit to Saudi Arabia where he met Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is also the Defence Minister of the country.
This attack has a major impact on India which sources a large chunk of oil from Saudi Arabia.
The Houthi group, meanwhile, reportedly warned of further strikes on oil installations in Saudi Arabia as well as in UAE, saying it has drones capable of penetrating deep inside these countries.
The militia, supported by Iran, is angry against Saudi Arabia and UAE for their military indulgence in Yemen. Saudi-led coalition forces are engaged in a five-year-old war against Houthis in Yemen and in support of UN-backed President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, whom the group wants to oust.
A Houthi commander, according to a media report, has said the attack in Saudi Arabia was a message to UAE too.
Saudi Arabia’s Defence Ministry spokesman Turki al Maliki has said the drones used in the attacks were “unquestionably sponsored by Iran” and that efforts were on to find out the exact location from where those were launched.
Iran, while denying any role in the attack, has warned that it would retaliate immediately if it is targeted.
“We don’t want conflict in the region,” Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said and, while attacking the US, asked, “who started the conflict?”
At the same time, Rouhani, according to state media, said the attack by Houthis was a warning to Saudi Arabia to end its war in Yemen.
The President of Iran, which has been accusing Saudi-led coalition forces of targeting civilians in Yemen in air strikes, also reportedly said that Yemeni attackers did not hit hospitals or schools or the markets.
Amidst rising tensions, Saudi Arabia and UAE have joined US-led coalition to ensure security of global energy and its flow through the maritime zone in the Middle East.
The US State Department has also issued an advisory, asking its citizens to “exercise increased caution” while travelling to Saudi Arabia.
It also said that without the approval of the Chief of US Mission, the mission staff and their families should not use the airport in Abha, which has often been a target of missiles and drones launched from Yemen.

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