The Abqaiq oil-processing facility in Saudi Arabia has always been regarded as a vulnerable choke point in the world of petroleum trade. Essential for separating harmful gas and stabilizing crude oil to make it safe to transport on ocean-going tankers, the facility can process some seven million barrels of crude per day, which represents around eight percent of total global oil production. Thus, it is no surprise that the recent attack on Abqaiq, which temporarily took about half of Saudi Arabia’s oil output off the market, resulted in a sharp upward spike in oil prices.
The Houthi movement in Yemen, which has become the de facto government in most of the northern and western parts of that country, claimed responsibility for the attack, which would mark the Houthis’ latest attempt to retaliate for the devastation that the Saudi air war has inflicted on Yemen. The Saudi assault, which has turned Yemen into the world’s foremost humanitarian disaster, has provided an endless succession of headlines about mass civilian casualties. One day it is the bombing of a hospital, another day it an attack on a wedding, and on other days the Saudi bombs have killed children fleeing the scene of an earlier attack or many innocent civilians of all ages in the streets of the capital city of Sanaa. The most recent mass casualty attack has been a Saudi strike on a prison, with at least 130 confirmed dead.
Although the Houthis’ capabilities to inflict damage at a distance have improved over time, the retaliatory attempts have been pinpricks compared to the enormous human suffering inflicted in the other direction. (There are no reports yet of casualties, if any, from the attack on Abqaiq.)