Saudi Arabia announces Aramco's vital facilities attacked

A passerby walks past in front of a stock quotation board outside a brokerage in Tokyo Japan

A passerby walks past in front of a stock quotation board outside a brokerage in Tokyo Japan

Two oil pumping stations serving a major East-West oil pipeline in Saudi Arabia faced a attack by armed drones on Tuesday, with the damage now being assessed, the minister of Energy, Industry and Mineral Resources Khalid bin Al-Falih has said.

The Houthis have repeatedly launched drone and missile attacks on Saudi cities, and two oil tankers passing through the strategically important Red Sea shipping lane of Bab Al-Mandeb were targeted by rocket attacks last July - prompting Saudi Arabia to announce that was "temporarily halting" all oil shipments along the route.

"Four commercial ships were subjected to sabotage operations today, 12 May, near UAE territorial waters in the Gulf of Oman, east of Fujairah", the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation said in a statement carried by state news agency WAM.

The official did not explain why the sabotage was attributed to Iran, but a standard investigative question is to ask what party would have had the motive. The assault, which has yet to be claimed by a group, was condemned across the region.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo shared information on what he called escalating threats from Iran during meetings with European Union counterparts and the head of North Atlantic Treaty Organisation in Brussels on Monday, the US special representative for Iran Brian Hook said.

Heshmatollah Falahat Pisheh, the head of Iran's National Security Foreign Policy Committee, said in an interview with Iranian state media Monday that "Iran and the United States can manage the crisis by themselves".

The incident has increased tensions between Iran, which borders the nearby Strait of Hormuz, and the US.

The team of U.S. 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 minister also vowed that the Saudi oil supply and production won't be affected by the attacks. Still, it has yet to be established officially whether Iran would risk tipping the situation further into violence indeed.

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An Emirati official said three Western countries - the US, France and Norway - would be part of an investigation into the ship attacks along with the UAE and Saudi Arabia.

Also sustaining the up move in crude prices, geopolitical tensions remain on the rise in the Persian Gulf after recent drone attacks on Saudi oil facilities and Sunday's sabotage of kingdom's tankers. While there were no casualties, two of the ships did suffer structural damage.

"Of course we can see the parallels with the run up to the Iraq war, but ... this is a president who lives up to his campaign promises", she said.

And in NY, the United Nations called on all sides to "exercise restraint for the sake of regional peace". "It's not in [Iran's] interest, it's not in our interest, it's not in Saudi Arabia's interest to have a conflict".

The MT Andrea Victory, the fourth allegedly targeted ship, sustained a hole in its hull just above its waterline from "an unknown object", its owner Thome Ship Management said in a statement.

The military buildup, announced earlier in May, came as the United States tightened sanctions it reinstated on Tehran after exiting the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.

A fifth of global oil consumption passes through the Strait of Hormuz from Middle East crude producers to major markets in Asia, Europe, North America and beyond.

Oil prices rose on news of the attack on the stations, more than 200 miles (320 km) west of the capital Riyadh.

Trump withdrew the United States from the deal previous year and has unilaterally reimposed tough sanctions on Iran.

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