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Thread: Attacks on Saudi oil infrastructure: a risky game

  1. #1

    Default Attacks on Saudi oil infrastructure: a risky game

    I'm sure you've all seen news reports of two drone attacks by Houthis on large Saudi oil facilities deep inside Saudi Arabia. It appears that there is at least a temporary shutdown of over 5m barrels of oil/day production, a massive part of Saudi and global production. The scale of the damage appears to be unclear as of yet. If the disruptions continue for more than a couple of days, it's likely this will be a massive shock to global oil prices and may drive a worldwide recession.

    This isn't the first time that Houthis have attacked (or tried to attack) Saudi oil infrastructure, just the most successful attempt. And it makes obvious sense - the Houthis can't hope to match Saudi coalition air power in Yemen itself, but their success on the ground is tied tightly to Saudi Arabia's willingness to continue fighting a costly and vicious war. If they raise the costs of intervention high enough, they gamble that the Saudis will lose interest in aggressively pursuing their intervention.

    Yet success at this strategy is highly risky. A prolonged oil disruption has the potential to galvanize Western action, particularly by the United States. It's a depressing truth that when it comes to Gulf policy, a major US strategic interest is the continued flow of oil to global markets. This is why the US so aggressively patrols the Straits of Hormuz and has an explicit policy - the Carter doctrine - to intervene to protest oil production in the region. If the Houthis succeed in really hurting Saudi rather than just annoying them, they may find themselves subject to much greater involvement by the US in a war that is, broadly, unpopular in US policy circles (and that segment of the electorate that actually knows there is a war going on).

    The Houthi patron, Iran, may also have been implicated in this attack - it stretches credulity that an attack of this magnitude could have been carried out without substantial technical assistance (and possibly approval) by Iran. This adds another layer of complexity, given Iran's usual ongoing conduct in the region and heightened tensions with Western powers over detention of Westerners, seizures and attacks against oil tankers in/near the Gulf, and renewed nuclear activities. I think that the chances of a substantial military confrontation with Iran continue to be fairly low, but have increased dramatically with today's events (provided the production disruption is prolonged).

    We are looking at a very complex near-term future for the region.
    "When I meet God, I am going to ask him two questions: Why relativity? And why turbulence? I really believe he will have an answer for the first." - Werner Heisenberg (maybe)

  2. #2
    Maybe Saudi could help me fund my military class quadcopter drones that I want to build.

  3. #3
    Trump has wasted so much political capital by alienating our international allies, insinuating that our Intelligence Agencies aren't to be trusted, and that our Free Press is disseminating Fake News. So what will he do now that he's caught in the trap of his own making? Keep digging?

  4. #4
    Iran would never sponsor such a thing, the government of Iran is a peace-loving entity only looking to defend itself.

  5. #5
    Trump is sending troops to protect Saudi oil. The conman-in-chief is playing a risky game indeed.

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