Published: Thu, May 16, 2019
Markets | By Erika Turner

Houthi attacks on Saudi oil installations unacceptable

Houthi attacks on Saudi oil installations unacceptable

While Trump dismissed a report in The New York Times that the White House is reviewing military plans against Iran that could result in sending 120,000 USA troops to the Middle East if Iran attacks American forces or steps up work on nuclear weapons, he said if the USA was going to get into a military conflict with Iran, "we'd send a hell of a lot more" troops.

CBS carried a similar report quoting unnamed United States officials. The official said each ship sustained a 1.5- to 3-metre hole in it, near or just below the water line, suspected to have been caused by explosive charges.

Notably, the recent attacks come amid mounting tension between Iran and the US after the Pentagon announced the deployment earlier this week of an aircraft carrier strike group to the Persian Gulf.

Separately, in an early indicator of future output, USA energy companies last week reduced the number of oil rigs operating for the third time in four weeks, cutting them by two and bringing the count down to 805.

Iranian leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei also said there would not be any war with the United States despite mounting pressure over Iranian nuclear capabilities, its missile programme and alleged support for proxies in Yemen, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. The Spanish Ministry of Defense says the Mendez Nunez frigate, with 215 sailors on board, will not cross the Strait of Hormuz into the Gulf together with the fleet headed by the USS Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier.

A map highlighting the proximity of Fujairah and Iran.

The country's energy minister, Khalid al-Falih, said one of the tankers had been on its way to be loaded with Saudi oil which was to be delivered to customers in the US.

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

Iran stepped up its efforts to deflect blame for the tanker bombings on Tuesday by suggesting they were a false-flag operation conducted by Israel.

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Fujairah port is the only Emirati terminal located on the Arabian Sea coast, bypassing the Strait of Hormuz through which most Gulf oil exports pass.

A general view shows a new plant inaugurated March 22, 2006 in Haradh, about 280 kilometers (170 miles) southwest of the eastern Saudi oil city of Dhahran.

The Andrea Victory's managers, Thome Group, said the ship's hull had been pierced "after being struck by an unknown object on the waterline".

The pipeline incident comes on the heels of rising tensions in the Gulf, where the United Arab Emirates announced on Sunday that four vessels had been exposed to undisclosed "sabotage". Two are from Saudi Arabia, one is Norwegian and the other is Emirati.

A map showing the coordinates of the oil tankers. The minister denounced the attacks on vessels as acts that "aims to undermine the freedom of maritime navigation, and the security of oil supplies to consumers all over the world".

The Houthis have been selected by Iran as a good place to test out the drone capabilities against a Western-backed army like the Saudis who use USA and other Western equipment.

"For the moment the frigate Mendez Nunez has left the combat group", a defence ministry spokesman told the AFP news agency. He said he would "absolutely" be willing to send troops but had not planned for that, and if he was going to "we'd send a hell of a lot more".

The United States has already strengthened its military presence in the region, including deploying a number of strategic B-52 bombers in response to alleged Iranian threats.

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