Saudis halt pipeline after drone attack claimed by Iran-backed rebels

President Donald Trump

Published May 11th 2019- 09:42 GMT President Donald Trump

Oil prices rose Tuesday, with benchmark Brent crude trading over $71 a barrel, up more than $1 on the day. An estimated one-third of the the world's oil exports pass through this narrow sea channel, which makes it strategically significant in a world economy that is heavily dependent on oil.

According to the Arab kingdom's Saudi Press Agency, one of the ships was on its way to transport oil from the Saudi port of Ras Tanura to the U.S when the incident occurred.

India is helping Iran develop Chabahar Port on the Gulf of Oman for trade with Afghanistan and Central Asia, bypassing Pakistan, which has refused to provide New Delhi access through a land route.

Mohammed Abdusalam, a spokesman for the Houthi rebels, wrote on Twitter that the attacks were "a response to the aggressors continuing to commit genocide" against the Yemeni people.

Al-Falih, the Saudi energy minister, said the attacks on the two Saudi tankers happened at 6 a.m. Sunday.

Tensions have risen in the oil-rich region in recent weeks amid the deployment of a growing number of United States military assets to the Middle East due to deteriorating relations with Iran. He said there will be no negotiations on a new nuclear deal.

Yemen's Houthi group, which has been at war with the kingdom for over four years, said it had launched drone attacks on Saudi installations, without identifying the targets or time of the attacks. He said "the attack didn't lead to any casualties or oil spill", though he acknowledged it affected "the security of oil supplies to consumers all over the world".

A Reuters witness said divers were inspecting the ships. The stations, targeted around the same time early Tuesday, are located in al-Duadmi and Afif, about 200 kilometers (125 miles) west of Riyadh city and 400 kilometers (250 miles) west of Riyadh city, respectively.

"It's time for our leaders to stop sleepwalking and the public to speak out as an unrestrained Iraq war architect repeats the playbook from that generational catastrophe with Iran".

Meanwhile, the USA has warned it would take military action if Iran acted upon a threat to close the Strait of Hormuz, a strategic energy choke point through which millions of barrels of oil pass through each day.

Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih, in comments run by state media, said global oil supplies were threatened by the drone attack and Sunday's sabotage of four vessels, including two Saudi tankers, off Fujairah emirate, a major bunkering hub near the Strait of Hormuz.

The oil tankers were visible in satellite images provided Tuesday to the AP by Colorado-based Maxar Technologies.

"The team of US military experts was sent to investigate the damages at the request of the UAE, but American officials have not provided any details about what exactly happened or any proof as yet about the possible Iranian involvement in the explosions", The AP added.

Analysts believe Iran's strategy in the region is based around support for local militant groups fighting in domestic causes that Tehran can ultimately steer toward supporting its own goals: defeating Saudi Arabia and undermining USA influence in the Middle East.

Iran has called for an investigation into what it called an "alarming" incident, while a senior member of Iran's parliament blamed Israel on Tuesday for the attacks on the ships, for which no one has yet claimed responsibility. "We had formerly anticipated that they would carry out these sorts of activities to escalate tension".

And in NY, the United Nations called on all sides to "exercise restraint for the sake of regional peace".

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