An oil facility in eastern Saudi Arabia burst into flames on Saturday, sending oil prices and tensions in the Middle East skyrocketing. After it became clear that the explosions were the result of an attack, all the fingers have been pointing at Iran and its allies—and there is talk of an armed response.
The explosions tore apart a processing facility in Abqaiq, halting over half of Saudi Arabia’s daily oil exports and one twentieth of all oil production in the world. The price of both crude oil and consumer gasoline jumped by around 10 percent in the United States.
Houthi rebels in Yemen, whom Iran supports in the war against the Saudi-backed government, claimed to have carried out the attack with drones. If so, then the attack may have been retaliation for a Saudi airstrike on a Houthi prisoner of war camp two weeks ago, which killed dozens of people, observed Trita Parsi, executive vice president at The Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft.
“U.S. media doesn’t cover this stuff, so whenever the Houthis do something, it sounds like an escalation,” Parsi told the National Interest.
But the United States and Saudi Arabia almost immediately began to cast doubt on the official Houthi line.
Officials at Aramco, the Saudi state oil company, said that the attack came from missiles rather than drones. Unverified images showing pieces of an Iranian-made Jerusalem-1 cruise missile in the Saudi desert began to circulate, adding weight to Aramco’s story.