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Tuesday, September 17

Did 9/14 attacks on Saudi oil facilities come from inside Saudi Arabia?

Currently, there are 200 comments in response to Bernhard's analysis at Moon of Alabama titled, Damage At Saudi Oil Plant Points To Well Targeted Swarm Attack and of course everyone is guessing about how the attacks were done and where they were launched from, but I found the following four comments interesting. See the MoA post for aerial footage of the exact sites that were attacked.

BEGIN QUOTES

The suggestion that this was launched from inside the Saudi desert is a reason to think the Houthis did this. They are among the people most able to get into that desert, since it is on their border, and to cross those deserts, since they've been doing that for centuries. Few others can operate so well out in that desert.

Posted by: Mark Thomason | Sep 16 2019 10:37 utc | 7


In spite of a lot of details given, this news is fully inconsistent with other satellite images. Other reports of the incident show smoke rising from a different location more than 2 km southeast from the described separator tanks. At least one side is fabricating wrong facts. Judge for yourself, e.g.:

https://a57.foxnews.com/static.foxnews.com/foxnews.com/content/uploads/2019/09/640/320/saudi-oil-attack.jpg?ve=1&tl=1

Posted by: MWL | Sep 16 2019 11:48 utc | 19


Nowhere near an expert, but taking a look on Google Maps, the orientation of the holes on the tanks looks like an attack from the wrong side (ie it looks more likely it came from inside Saudi Arabia). A drone attack from the Iraq or Bahrain side would have travelled further and hit on the other side.

Given the level of precision, I wonder if the attack was launched much more locally - some short distance home-made drone that would fly over the fence with a maximum distance of about a mile from waste land outside the plant. The specific targeting on focused targets instead of indiscriminate scattered destruction would also suggest someone familiar with the plant, and a shorter distance attack flown by hand from nearby would require much less sophisticated equipment.

The photos of the plumes of smoke are also confusing. One is from somewhere outside the plant. And a second at the Haradh gas plant that is appearing in the media, is some 140 miles away from Abqaiq.

The plant was attacked previously by Saudi Al Qaeda affiliates in 2006 so it is a target for internal Saudi terrorists as well as external countries.

Posted by: Tess Ting | Sep 16 2019 11:56 utc | 22


Someone is faking facts. The provided Government / DigitalGlobe imagery is inconsistent with earlier satellite imagery of the smoke rising from a site about 2 km southeast of the alleged attack. The smoke did NOT rise from the shown separator facilities. ...

Posted by: MWL | Sep 16 2019 12:12 utc | 25

END QUOTES

Sunday, September 15

Egypt's President says what happened to Syria was planned

“The phenomenon of international terrorism is a monster that has become out of the control of those who launched it.” 
Yes. 
September 14, 2019
Cairo, SANA- Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi said that what took place in Syria was planned as terrorist organizations were used to destroy the country and a number of the countries in the regions.
During activities of the National Youth Conference held in Cairo Saturday under the title of ”Evaluating the Local and Regional Counter-Terrorism Experience,” el-Sisi added that terrorism was used to achieve political goals away from international legitimacy.
The Egyptian President affirmed that the cost of using terrorism to destroy countries is not high, pointing out that terrorism was used to target and destroy Syria and Libya.
He emphasized that a conventional war cannot destroy a state, but terrorism can do so.
El-Sisi said that without the existence of sponsors that adopt and back terrorism, this phenomenon would not have spread and succeeded in such way.
“The phenomenon of international terrorism is a monster that has become out of the control of those who launched it," the Egyptian President concluded.
Shaza/ Gh. A. Hassoun
[END SANA REPORT]

Time for a Sanity Pause


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Which idiot advised Trump to snub the UAE?

START QUOTES: 
... Instead of undermining Iran’s strategy to create another Lebanon in Yemen, we are now seeing three Lebanons ... 
The other message is for President Donald Trump, who alienated UAE officials by showing little interest in maintaining their relationship.
The nearly magisterial welcome Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad received in Washington DC in July reflected badly on US ties with Abu Dhabi. Some in the UAE (not surprisingly in Saudi Arabia too) grumbled about the president’s game to exploit the Gulf States’ feud and play his allies against one another.
Trump’s move rattled the Saudis and the Emiratis and prompted a defiant reaction, with the UAE unleashing the Yemeni southern separatists.
The UAE officials got it right. ...
END QUOTES

 Somehow I doubt that Trump cooked up the snub all on his own, given that he probably still can't locate Qatar, the UAE or Yemen on a map  -- or if this was indeed his brainstorm, where were his advisors? Chewing hashish brownies in the West Wing?

Saints preserve us; when it comes to the Middle East, the U.S. is like a giant thrashing around in quicksand. And of course, every time, the British and French and everyone else puts the U.S. at the top of their 'Who can we blame?' list. Pundita, calm down, but I just can't believe how stupid it was to snub the Emiratis especially at that time, how blind it was! 

All right, let's start from the top, seeing how lucky we are that in the wake of the Houthi drone strikes yesterday, the (U.K.) Independent dredged up a "consultant editor" on the Middle East who seems to have some idea about what has actually been going on with Saudi Arabia and the UAE regarding Yemen. However, from his own analysis, I am not so sure that a divorce isn't in the cards sometime soon, even though he concludes this isn't the case. And I recall that the issues between the two countries are actually existential and further clouded by the Emirati rejection of Saudi Wahabism.  

The oil drone attack shows how Saudi Arabia and the UAE are fighting their own battles in Yemen
By Ahmed Aboudouh
September 14, 2019
Independent

The marriage between Saudi Arabia and the UAE has long been on solid ground, but like any marriage, issues develop over time. 
From day one in Yemen, the two sides have had completely different agendas.
Saudi Arabia’s intentions were, for the most part, to thwart Iran’s relentless attempts to plant the Houthis - a loyal, Hezbollah-like Shia militia – on the Saudis’ southern borders.

The UAE has sought to free south Yemen from both the Houthis and al-Qaeda and later use the region as a launching pad for its own strategic influence in the Horn of Africa.
The picture now – including the stalemate in the strategic port of Hodeida – tells us that the Saudi policy has failed, while the UAE’s self-interests have increased [in success].
Instead of undermining Iran’s strategy to create another Lebanon in Yemen, we are now seeing three Lebanons – two controlled by Iran in Beirut and Sanaa, and a UAE-backed one in Aden. Saudi Arabia will also have to contend with unfriendly relations both near its northern borders with Iraq and the southern border with the Houthi-controlled north Yemen.
Yes, Yemen has become, in effect, two countries which are hostile to each other.
In the south of the country, there is a 90,000-strong militia, backed by the UAE. The Security Belt militia in the southern port city of Aden has taken over government positions – a government recognised by the UN and largely seen as a Saudi puppet – leaving Riyadh free of loyal Yemeni friends to rely on as a counterbalance with the Houthis’ well-entrenched power in the north.
The Saudis are under no illusion, however, that they will win the war. They, along with the Emiratis, have long concluded that the Yemen war is unwinnable, and have been looking for a way out.
But the Emiratis have acted faster and more decisively throughout. The Emirati troops’ withdrawal from Yemen may carry some meaningful de-escalation message to Iran. The Emiratis also avoided blaming Iran for standing behind the alleged harassment of ships in the Gulf waters. The other message is for President Donald Trump, who alienated UAE officials by showing little interest in maintaining their relationship.
The nearly magisterial welcome Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad received in Washington DC in July reflected badly on US ties with Abu Dhabi. Some in the UAE (not surprisingly in Saudi Arabia too) grumbled about the president’s game to exploit the Gulf States’ feud and play his allies against one another.
Trump’s move rattled the Saudis and the Emiratis and prompted a defiant reaction, with the UAE unleashing the Yemeni southern separatists.
The UAE officials got it right. The US is not ready (and is unwilling) to give its Gulf allies any security assurances. The UAE felt it had to make an immediate move in the south if they were to put an end to their costly and reckless intervention in Yemen.
However badly needed an exit from Yemen, the UAE’s withdrawal would leave the Saudis with no credible allies in Yemen, and scale back pressure on the Houthis, leaving them with more maneuvering space to launch yet more missiles and drones into Saudi Arabia.
Early on Saturday, drones attacked the world’s largest oil processing facility in Saudi Arabia and a major oilfield operated by Saudi Aramco, sparking a huge fire at a processor vital to global energy supplies.
Now, the ad-lib negotiations between the Americans and the Houthis are a reflection of the Emirati success in convincing the Saudis to find a face-saving way out of Yemen.
Although the Saudi-backed government authority is diminishing in Yemen, Saudi Arabia seems unable to hinder the Emirati control in the south. The Saudis have always seen the UAE presence in the south as part of the main operation against the Houthis, but the UAE still considers it an independent action.
The Southern Transitional Council’s new control over the port city of Aden showed that only the UAE has enough military power and local allied forces to pull the strings in the south. Relying on airpower for the past four years, Saudi Arabia seems completely out of touch and new to ground operations in the south, and in Yemen as a whole.
But Saudi Arabia is unlikely to stand by without a response to UAE control. Sources in the Gulf told me that a Saudi message has been sent to Qatar to reopen a bilateral dialogue to end the Gulf crisis. The Saudi move exasperated Abu Dhabi.
Although there are insecurities on both sides, the Saudi Arabia-UAE alliance remains solid on issues such as Iran, the Muslim Brotherhood and Libya. Despite the growing issues, and as long as Iran is wreaking havoc on their doorsteps, divorce is still unlikely anytime soon.
[END ANALYSIS]
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Was a cruise missile included in Houthi 9/14 attacks on Saudi oil targets?

Well. That might explain how at least one of the oil storage units at the Abqaiq facility was breached, although we don't know at this time exactly how many of those units were successfully hit. Anyhow, the sharp-eyed Bernhard at Moon of Alabama has scooped up this eyebrow-raiser for his analysis of the Houthi attacks:
... 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 a 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. ...
There's lots more in Bernhard's discussion of reports about  the attack, including photos and all kinds of graphics -- and this mention:
Saudi Arabia said that the fires are under control. Video shot this morning shows that they continue.
Also, Bernhard is sticking by his prediction, made some days ago, that the Saudis will have to roll over and negotiate with the Houthi to end a war that is getting the better of the kingdom:
That attack in August was the checkmate move against the Saudi war on Yemen. As we wrote at that time:
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.
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.
But while I dislike repeating the warning I gave about Lavrov's claim that the Syrian War is over, we'll have to see.  If the U.S. can definitively implicate Iran in the 9/14 Houthi attack on the Saudi oil facilities, which they might be able to do if a cruise missile was involved, there's no telling what will happen next.

One question about Bernhard's report. He writes:
The second target was a processing plant near Khurais 190 km (118 miles) further southwest. It lies within the country's second-largest oil field.
As I mentioned last night, two reports on the attacks, one from AP and the other from Oil Price, state that the second attack was on the Khurais oilfield, not the nearby processing plant, and Debkafile is also reporting the strike was against the oilfield. But the attacks are still a fog-of-war situation, which Aramco might clear up in its promised assessment, due in less than 48 hours.

As to whether the Houthis could breach (and reach) the oil storage units just with drones, in theory, yes, from this comment at Sic Semper Tyrannis about the attacks (emphasis mine):

From Walrus:
I would think GPS/GLONASS/GALILEO is accurate enough for delivery to within about a 30 feet radius circle. The electronics are nothing special these days.
Launching would probably be via a rail with some sort of rocket booster maybe powered by an rpg motor or some sort of slow burn propellant (maybe from arty or mortar rounds?).
My WAG is that the speed of this thing is maybe no more than 100 - 150 mph and it’s powered by a piston engine burning maybe 10 litres per hour (another WAG) for 6 hours that means about 100 lbs of fuel (60 x .72 x 2.2). if the motor weighs about 25 lb, and allow about the same for a fibreglass airframe, we get a weight less warhead of about 150 - 170 lb for a still air range of about 600 statute miles.
Now add about 50 lb of explosive as a payload with some form of impact fuse and we have about a 220lb drone with a range of 600 miles that is too small and slow to be noticed.
I can’t imagine any precision guidance/armour piercing sophisticated munitions are used; all you would need for a fire is a lucky round to hit one of CBI’s finest tanks and boom - 10 million litres of flaming product.
I would imagine our intelligence services have a much better idea than my guess and would be concerned that other “entrepreneurs “ don’t copy the Houthi.
Our colleague, “Nuff said” suggested the ingredients were smuggled in and the Houthi built them themselves. That suggests they are building and launching in salvos as fast as they can. ...
As to what if anything the Israelis are saying about the attacks -- Debkafile claims they were launched from Iraq, which might lend weight to the fisherman's evidence:
DEBKAfile Exclusive: Early Saturday, Sept. 14, Yemeni Houthi rebels fired at least 10 drones against the Saudi Aramco’s biggest oil facility and second largest oil field from Iraq. Our sources report that they used pro-Iranian Shiite militia bases in southern Iraq ...
No mention of a cruise missile.

******** 

Snowden interview on two mainstream US TV news shows this Monday

From Sputnik, today:

The whistleblower will appear on [network] CBS [between 7-9 am ET] and [cable] MSNBC [11 pm ET] this Monday, September 16. This is believed to be one of the first direct interviews with Snowden on US media in years.
Edward Snowden, the former US intelligence contractor and the world’s most famous whistleblower, announced a small media campaign ahead of the publication of his book, "Permanent Record," on 17 September.
Snowden will join two US news shows; CBS This Morning and MSNBC’s 11th Hour with Brian Williams, where he will answer questions about his disclosure of classified US documents in 2013, which led to his involuntary exile in Hong Kong and, later, Russia, where he lives to this day.
The interviews will be one of Snowden's first direct interactions with US media in years, apart from an interview with HBO's John Oliver in 2015, according to The Hill.
In the upcoming book, Snowden will tell the story of his life, how he decided to turn whistleblower and his life in Russia.
"Edward Snowden, the man who risked everything to expose the US government’s system of mass surveillance, reveals for the first time the story of his life, including how he helped to build that system and what motivated him to try to bring it down," his publisher said about the book.
In 2013, Snowden leaked a trove of highly classified information from the National Security Agency regarding global surveillance programs conducted by the US government, sparking widespread concerns about national security and personal privacy.
[END REPORT]
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Saturday, September 14

Houthis claim they got targeting help from inside Saudi Kingdom

An Associated Press report timestamped three hours ago is the most detailed I've yet seen on the Houthi predawn drone attacks on Saudi oil facilities today. One item in the report, which I feature in full below, is an eyebrow-raiser: the Houthis claim they got targeting intel from inside the Saudi Kingdom. If they're telling the truth, this sheds a different light on a report from FARS, datelined September 11, that I'd dismissed as anti-Saudi, or at least anti-MbS, propaganda; it's headlined Arab Media: S. Arabia Building Dungeon under MbS Palace

If you're visualizing a medieval dungeon, no this one is ten stories high, underground. But it's possible the Saudi rulers know something about the situation in their country that we don't, and which the Houthi claim points to. 

Leading to the question, just how much suppressed opposition is there in Saudi Arabia to the present regime? 

Anyhow -- (Note that unlike other reports the AP report, and a report from Oil Price, claim that the other Houthi target was the Khurais oil field, not processing facilities near the oil field. Still a fog-of-war situation, and here's orientation from a FARS report: "Abqaiq, 60 km (37 miles) Southwest of Dhahran in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province, contains the world’s largest oil processing plant. Khurais, 190 km further Southwest, contains the country’s second-largest oilfield."):


Saudi oil sites shut production after hit by Yemen’s Houthi drones
By The Associated Press via Market Watch
September 14, 2019 - 7:29 PM ET

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Yemen’s Houthi rebels launched drone attacks on the world’s largest oil processing facility in Saudi Arabia and a major oil field Saturday, sparking huge fires and halting about half of the supplies from the world’s largest exporter of oil.

The attacks were the latest of many drone assaults on the kingdom’s oil infrastructure assaults in recent weeks, but easily the most damaging. They raise concerns about the global oil supply and likely will further increase tensions across the Persian Gulf amid an escalating crisis between the U.S. and Iran over its unraveling nuclear deal with world powers.

The attacks resulted in “the temporary suspension of production operations” at the Abqaiq oil processing facility and the Khurais oil field, Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman said in a statement carried by the state-run Saudi Press Agency. The fires “were controlled,” the statement said, and no workers were injured.

Officials said they hoped to restore production to its regular level of 9.8 million barrels a day by Monday.

“For now, markets are well supplied with ample commercial stocks,” the International Energy Agency tweeted, according to Reuters, saying it was in contact with Saudi authorities as well as major producer and consumer nations.

The fires led to the interruption of an estimated 5.7 million barrels in crude supplies, according to the statement, which said part of that would be offset with stockpiles. The statement said Saudi Aramco, the state-owned oil giant, would provide updated information in the next 48 hours.

The Iranian-backed Houthis, who hold Yemen’s capital, Sanaa, and other territory in the Arab world’s poorest country, took responsibility for the attacks in the war against a Saudi-led coalition that has fought since 2015 to reinstate the internationally recognized Yemeni government. But the U.S. blamed Iran, with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tweeting, “There is no evidence the attacks came from Yemen.”

“Iran has now launched an unprecedented attack on the world’s energy supply,” Pompeo added.

In a short address aired by the Houthi’s Al-Masirah satellite news channel, military spokesman Yahia Sarie said the rebels launched 10 drones after receiving “intelligence” support from those inside the kingdom. He warned that attacks by the rebels would only get worse if the war continues.

“The only option for the Saudi government is to stop attacking us,” Sarie said.

Houthi rebels have been using drones in combat since the start of the Saudi-led war. The first appeared to be off-the-shelf, hobby-kit-style drones. Later, versions nearly identical to Iranian models turned up. Iran denies supplying the Houthis with weapons, although the U.N., the West and Gulf Arab nations say Tehran does.

U.N. investigators said the Houthis’ new UAV-X drone likely has a range of up to 1,500 kilometers (930 miles). That puts the far reaches of both Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates in range.

First word of Saturday’s assault came in online videos of giant fires at the Abqaiq facility, some 330 kilometers (205 miles) northeast of the Saudi capital, Riyadh. Machine-gun fire could be heard in several clips alongside the day’s first Muslim call to prayers, suggesting security forces tried to bring down the drones just before dawn. In daylight, Saudi state television aired a segment with its local correspondent near a police checkpoint, a thick plume of smoke visible behind him.

President Donald Trump called Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to offer his support for the kingdom’s defense, the White House said. The crown prince assured Trump that Saudi Arabia is “willing and able to confront and deal with this terrorist aggression,” according to a news release from the Saudi Embassy in Washington.

Saudi Aramco describes its Abqaiq oil processing facility in Buqyaq as “the largest crude oil stabilization plant in the world.”

The facility processes sour crude oil into sweet crude, then transports it onto transshipment points on the Persian Gulf and the Red Sea or to refineries for local production. Estimates suggest it can process up to 7 million barrels of crude oil a day. By comparison, Saudi Arabia produced 9.65 million barrels of crude oil a day in July.

“This is one of the biggest central processing facilities in the world. The Iran conflict is going to be hitting the world in a new way,” said Kevin Book, managing director, research at ClearView Energy Partners LLC.

The Khurais oil field is believed to produce over 1 million barrels of crude oil a day. It has estimated reserves of over 20 billion barrels of oil, according to Aramco.

There was no immediate impact on global oil prices as markets were closed for the weekend. Benchmark Brent crude had been trading at just above $60 a barrel.

There was no immediate impact on global oil prices as markets were closed for the weekend. Analysts warned though that the size of the loss could trigger a sharp rise in oil prices when markets reopen after the weekend, potentially spreading fears to the wider economy.

On Friday U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude for October delivery CLV19, -0.05% fell 24 cents, or 0.4%, to settle at $54.85 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange—for a roughly 3% weekly decline, according to Dow Jones Market Data, tracking the front-active contract. November BRNX19, +0.05% shed 16 cents, or 0.3%, to $60.22 a barrel on the ICE Futures, with prices marking a weekly fall of 2.1%.

While Saudi Arabia has taken steps to protect itself and its oil infrastructure, analysts had warned that Abqaiq remained vulnerable. The Rapidan Energy Group, a Washington-based advisory group, warned in May that “a successful attack could lead to a months long disruption of most Saudi production and nearly all spare production.” It called Abqaiq, close to the eastern Saudi city of Dammam, “the most important oil facility in the world.”

In a report published Saturday, Helima Croft, global head of commodity strategy at RBC Capital Markets, noted that although Aramco officials have indicated that exports will resume in the next few days, “there is nothing to suggest that this is a one-off event and that the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels will forgo further strikes on Saudi sites.”

The war has become the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. The violence has pushed Yemen to the brink of famine and killed more than 90,000 people since 2015, according to the U.S.-based Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project, or ACLED, which tracks the conflict.

The rebels have flown drones into the radar arrays of Saudi Arabia’s Patriot missile batteries, according to Conflict Armament Research, disabling them and allowing the Houthis to fire ballistic missiles into the kingdom unchallenged. The Houthis launched drone attacks targeting Saudi Arabia’s crucial East-West Pipeline in May. In August, Houthi drones struck Saudi Arabia’s Shaybah oil field.

[END REPORT]

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Update on Houthi drone attack today on Saudi oil facility and oilfield

Note that an AP report published at 7:29 pm ET, and a report from Oil Price, claim that the other Houthi target was the Khurais oil field, not processing facilities near the oil field as other reports I've seen maintain. Still a fog-of-war situation.

From RT, today:
Saudi Arabia confirms about half of Aramco's production interrupted due to drone strikes... Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman said the attacks crippled the facilities, forcing Saudi Aramco to partially halt crude and gas production, but the company was working on recovering the lost quantities and would give an update within 48 hours. The decrease in supplies would be partially compensated through the company’s oil reserves, the minister promised. ...
From WSJ via SST
Saudi Arabia is shutting down half of its oil production after drones attacked the world’s largest oil processing facility in the kingdom, The Wall Street Journal reported.
The closure will impact almost five million barrels of crude production a day, about 5% of the world’s daily oil production, the WSJ reported, citing sources familiar with the matter.
For background see Houthi Drone Attacks on Saudi Aramco Oil Production Halt 5.7 Million Barrels Daily - Saudi Minister; Sputnik
The group attacked the Abqaiq and Khurais oil refineries with 10 drones, the biggest Houthi operation within Saudi territory to date
The Abqaiq facility is the largest in the world, but from this Oil Price report, it seems that the other target, Khurais, is an oil field not a processing facility, but we await clarification from the Saudis.
SST's report on the strike includes Colonel Pat Lang's commentary and several interesting remarks in the SST comment section. The Colonel observed:
Watch the al-jazeera video linked below. Some time ago, an "expert" on toy UAVs expressed an opinion on my FB page that the Houthis must be trucking these drones up to within a few miles of the target before flying them. This attack would seem to exclude this possibility.  The question of the size of the payload also is intriguing because of the amount of damage inflicted, and then there is the matter of the guidance system. 
This is a game changer.  pl
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j6BgA54VZBk

Pundita note: The Al Jazeera video was posted May 14, 2019, in reference to two Houthi drone strikes on an east-west Aramco Saudi oil pipeline, but the video is helpful in conveying the size of the Abqaiq facility and the damage that today's drone strike did. 

As to how today's strikes were able to pierce the massive oil storage tanks, that's a good question, which an SST reader discusses in the comment section although the answer is still speculative.

As to Prince Abdulaziz, he's the new Saudi energy minister, and according to this Reuters report, a hawk on cutting OPEC oil production to keep oil prices, or at least OPEC,  from collapsing. On September 13 -- the day before the stunning Houthi drone attacks --Forbes reported, Opec Slides Closer To Collapse As An Oil Glut Overpowers The Oil Price.

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The Houthis did what America should have done on 9/12/01

Houthi drone strike on Aramco oil facility in Abqaiq, Saudi Arabia on September 14, 2019


Photo: Reuters
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo blamed Tehran for what he called “an unprecedented attack on the world’s energy supply” but stopped short of suggesting any retaliatory measures. Meanwhile, U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham was quick to turn to Twitter to call for swift retaliation ... : "It is now time for the U.S. to put on the table an attack on Iranian oil refineries if they continue their provocations or increase nuclear enrichment."
Secretary Pompeo, Senator Graham, sit down and shut up.


See also:
"The group attacked the Abqaiq and Khurais oil refineries with 10 drones, the biggest Houthi operation within Saudi territory to date ..." The Abqaiq facility is the largest in the world.

********

Half Saudi Aramco oil output halted by Houthi drone strikes

"The group attacked the Abqaiq and Khurais oil refineries with 10 drones, the biggest Houthi operation within Saudi territory to date ..." The Abqaiq facility is the largest in the world.


Photo: Reuters

Note that an AP report published at 7:29 pm ET, and a report from Oil Price, claim that the other Houthi target was the Khurais oil field, not processing facilities near the oil field as other reports I've seen maintain. Still a fog-of-war situation.

September 15, 2019

Sputnik

Riyadh has temporarily stopped oil production at two Saudi Aramco plants that were attacked by Houthi rebels, interrupting about half of the company's total oil output, the Saudi energy minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman said Saturday, cited by the Saudi Press Agency (SPA).
Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman the said the attacks led to the interruption of an estimated 5.7 million barrels of crude or about 50 percent of the total company's production, according to SPA.
Saudi Aramco is the state-owned oil giant which operates and controls the majority of the kingdom's refinery production and oilfields.
Fires hit the Abqaiq oil refinery, a gated production facility and living community in the nation's Eastern Province, as well as an oil-processing facility near the Khurais oil field, located 100 miles east of Riyadh, according to SPA.
The armed Yemeni Houthi opposition movement claimed responsibility for the attacks.
According to a statement from the Houthi armed forces, broadcast by Almasirah TV channel, the group attacked the Abqaiq and Khurais oil refineries with 10 drones, the biggest Houthi operation within Saudi territory to date, according to a spokesperson.
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman told US President Donald Trump during the phone call on Saturday that "The kingdom is willing and able to confront and deal with this terrorist aggression", according to SPA.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has, meanwhile, blamed Iran for recent drone attacks on Saudi Aramco's oil fields, urging the international community "to publicly and unequivocally condemn Iran’s attacks".
Tehran is reportedly expected to comment on the issue.
Earlier, Houthi armed forces carried out a drone attack on the Shaybah oil field and refinery in Saudi Arabia, prompting a counter-attack by the Saudis on targets in northern Yemen.
Yemen has since 2015 been engulfed in a war between government forces led by exiled
President Abdrabuh Mansour Hadi and the rebel Houthi movement.
A Saudi-led coalition has been carrying out airstrikes against the Houthis at Hadi's request since March 2015. 
[END REPORT]

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Lavrov says the Syrian War is over

Well, no one can say the Russians aren't trying to bring the war to an end. We'll see, but here's Lavrov's reasoning:

War in Syria has come to an end’: Russian FM
September 13, 2019
Al-Masdar News (AMN)

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov believes that the war in Syria has come to an end and stressed the need to promote a long-lasting settlement of the crisis in the Arab Republic and the Middle East region as a whole.
“The war in Syria has really come to an end. The country is gradually returning to a normal, peaceful life. Some hotspots of tensions remain in the territories that are not controlled by the Syrian government, such as Idlib and the eastern bank of the Euphrates”, Lavrov said in an interview with the newspaper Trud.
The minister thinks that the most important goals regarding Syria now are providing humanitarian aid for civilians and “promoting the political process on settling the crisis to achieve stable and long-lasting stabilization of the situation in the country and the whole Middle East region”.
Earlier in the day, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that the Syrian opposition was playing an important role in the Syrian settlement.
“We believe the formation and launch of the committee designed to develop the constitutional reform will be an important step in advancing the political process led and carried out by the Syrians themselves with the UN’s assistance”, Lavrov said in an interview with the newspaper Trud. “In fact, convening it will enable the Syrian sides –- the government and the opposition -– to begin for the first time a direct dialogue on their country’s future”, he said.
According to the Russian foreign minister, Russia informed Israel about steps that it was taking to “support the efforts of the Syrian government in its fight against terrorists, who still remain in the Idlib zone, and promote issues related to humanitarian assistance and facilitation of the political process in the context of the formation of the constitutional committee”.
“We stressed, emphasized, the need – and here the Israelis fully agree with us – to ensure real, in practice, not only in words, respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Syrian Arab Republic. And in this sense, we on our part highlighted the issues of assisting the Syrian authorities and the Syrians on the whole in their returning to peaceful life”, he told reporters.
Lavrov added that Russia had also noted that sanctions the United States and European countries had slapped on the legitimate Syrian government were completely counterproductive.
“We, in my opinion, found understanding from our Israeli counterparts on these issues”, the minister said.
Syria has been mired in a civil war since 2011, with government forces fighting against numerous opposition groups as well as militant and terrorist organizations. Russia, along with Turkey and Iran, is a guarantor of the ceasefire in the Arab Republic. Moscow has also been providing humanitarian aid to residents of the crisis-torn country.
[END REPORT]
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Hey, EU, how's that "Assad must go" campaign working out for you?

As the HTS command structure continues to collapse, Turkey's government has already helped 2000+ terrorists flee Idlib for Turkey -- but Erdogan's regime is just funneling them to Europe via Greece.  As to how many of these 'terrorist insurgents' were mercenaries initially infiltrated into Syria via Turkey, I don't know. But one thing is clear. They sure as hell can't flee to Saudi Arabia or Qatar. Unless their paymasters can repurpose them for fighting in Yemen or Libya, where are they supposed to go? Afghanistan?     

FARS
September 13, 2019

TEHRAN (FNA)- A large number of terrorists have fled to Turkey in cooperation with Turkish officials in recent months as gaps have been widening among terrorist groups and the Tahrir al-Sham al-Hay’at (the Levant Liberation Board or Al-Nusra Front) [HTS] command structure has collapsed.

The Arabic-language al-Watan newspaper [Syiria] quoted local sources in Kharbeh al-Joz Northwest of Jisr al-Shoghour in Western Idlib as saying that over 2,000 militants have fled to Turkey after being helped by Turkish border guards since the Syrian Army kicked off its military operation on May 6.

The local sources also pointed to Turkey’s threats on increasing corridors from Turkey to Europe, and said that most of the Ankara-backed terrorists who have defected their terrorist groups have fled to the European countries via Greece.

Al-Watan also quoted sources close to Tahrir al-Sham as saying that a wave of internal differences and defection can be seen among Tahrir al-Sham commanders as they accuse each other of treason.


[END REPORT]

See also SYRIAN WARPLANES POUND MILITANT POSITIONS IN SOUTHERN IDLIB; September 13, 2019, SouthFront

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Syrian Army shells newly established Turkish miliary post in S.Idlib

Just how reliable is SOHR as a source? Menza-Menza. Southfront knows this but is running with the story, which is plausible because the Turks weren't supposed to build that particular post. In Syria, give the Turks an inch and they'll take 20 miles.  

September 14, 2019
SouthFront

Late on September 13, the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) shelled the newly-established Turkish military post in the southern Idlib countryside, according to several opposition activists.

The activists said that a shell fired by the army’s artillery hit a berm surrounding the post, which is located near Maar Hattat. The town is a few kilometers to south of the city Ma`arat al-Nu`man that was shelled with heavy rockets a few hours ago.

In the morning, the Turkish military reinforced Maar Hattat’s post with a convoy consisting of more than 30 vehicles, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR).

Unlike the twelve Turkish observation posts surrounding Greater Idlib, Maar Hattat’s post was not agreed upon during the Astana talks. The post was established last month following the SAA advance in northern Hama.


Turkey’s Ministry of National Defence has not commented on the shelling, yet. Ankara usually ignores the attacks that don’t result in any causalities.


[END REPORT]

Massive fires at two Saudi Aramco oil refineries bombed by drones

Fire at an Aramco factory in Abqaiq, Saudi Arabia, September 14, 2019

Photo: Reuters

One of the bombed oil refineries is, according to ARAMCO, "the world's largest oil processing plant." The fires are now under control according to a spokesperson, whether from ARAMCO or a Saudi ministry isn't clear.   

The following report from RT includes several videos of the fires posted to social media, which are accompanied by comments at Twitter by the presumed videographers. One Twitter comment published in the RT report mentions that Abqaiq has "the largest concentration of Americans and Westerners." Major Western press (AP, BBC, Reuters, etc.) also have reports about the fires.  

RT
14 September, 2019 04:46, edited 0
6:32

Massive fires have hit two Saudi Aramco oil facilities, with dramatic footage emerging online. Riyadh says the blazes were caused by drone attacks, without naming the attacker.

The state-run Saudi Press Agency said drones caused the fire at the refinery in the city of Abqaiq in the kingdom’s oil-rich Eastern Province, which Aramco describes as the world’s largest oil processing plant, as well as the blaze at the Khurais oil field, around 150km from Riyadh.

The agency did not specify the type of drones involved or name the alleged perpetrator. The fires at both sites are under control and a probe has been launched into the alleged attacks, the Saudis say.

Multiple videos, posted on social media earlier on Saturday, showed an Aramco compound engulfed in flames and thick black smoke billowing from the site.

In some footage, several loud bangs resembling the sound of explosions can be heard in the background. There were reports of over a dozen blasts rocking the facility.

Apparent sounds of gunfire can be heard on a video allegedly filmed at a parking lot across the street from the site.

On Twitter, Saudi royal court adviser Turki Alalshikh urged netizens to not fuel speculations, denouncing social media reports as “lies and rumours.”

“Praise to God, safe and secure... Abqaiq is well,” the official tweeted.

Saudi Arabia has been accusing Iran of arming and directing the Houthi rebels in civil-war torn Yemen to launch drone and rocket attacks across the kingdom’s border. In May, armed drones caused minor damage to Aramco’s two pumping stations in the Eastern Province. While the Houthis claimed responsibility for the attack, the Saudis blamed Tehran. Iranian officials denied the allegations.

[END REPORT]


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