Oil and Middle East “fire pan”

Wednesday, 2019-05-22 12:24:14
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Al Marzoqah, a Saudi tanker, off the port of Fujairah, in the United Arab Emirates, on Monday. The ship is one of two that Saudi Arabia said have been damaged in acts of sabotage. (Reuters)
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NDO – A series of attacks against Saudi Arabia’s oil stations and oil tankers in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have been reported over recent times, resulting in escalating tensions in the Middle East.

Yemeni Houthi rebels claimed that the assault on oil installations in Saudi Arabia is just the beginning of their campaign, which is aimed at 300 key military objectives of Saudi Arabia and the UAE in retaliation for the coalition’s air strikes during the war in Yemen.

The Middle Eastern “fire pan” has been heated up following violent developments in many countries across the region.

King Salman of Saudi Arabia has proposed organising two regional summits later this month to talk about the drone attacks on the country’s petroleum depots, as well as the attacks on four oil tankers offshore the UAE, including the two from Saudi Arabia. Accordingly, leaders of countries in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and the Arab League (AL) will discuss measures and seek to strengthen coordination towards ensuring regional security and stability. The assault on major Saudi pipeline is said to be extremely serious as it is an alternative oil export route if the Strait of Hormuz is closed.

The attack on four oil tankers near Fujairah, UAE, just outside the Strait of Hormuz, the world’s key oil and gas transport route, on May 12, has raised fears of escalating tensions in the Gulf. Two days later, Saudi’s main pipeline was also hit by drone strikes, which could be seen as “adding oil” to the Middle East’s “fire pan”. Houthi rebels in Yemen claimed responsibility for the assault in Saudi Arabia, leading Riyadh to accuse Iran, which is said by many countries to support Houthi, to stand behind the aforementioned air strike. Saudi Ambassador to the United Nations, Abdallah Al-Mouallimi, urged the UN Security Council to disarm Houthi’s rebels to prevent escalating violence. According to Al-Mouallimi, Houthi rebels’ actions have increased tensions, while triggering risks for a larger-scale confrontation in the region.

Yemeni Houthi rebels claimed that their strikes are aimed at key military facilities and bodies in the UAE and Saudi Arabia, as well as the two countries’ bases in Yemen. In response, over recent days, the Saudi-led military coalition has launched air strikes against many areas in Yemen, causing nearly 100 deaths, mainly of Houthi gunmen. Riyadh warned that it is willing to retaliate with any measures after the attack on its oil tankers and stations. Meanwhile, the UAE said that the current situation in the region requires a unified stance of the Gulf and Arab countries in addressing challenges and risks.

Amid tensions in the region showing no signs of cooling down, the security situation in Iraq also emerges as a worrisome issue. A rocket recently hit the Green Zone in Bagdad, where Government buildings and foreign embassies are headquartered, including the US Embassy. The US Central Command (CENTCOM) confirmed an explosion outside the US Embassy in Baghdad. The US Department of State stressed that such attacks would be “resolutely” responded to, and Washington would blame Iran if such attacks were carried out by forces commissioned by Tehran.

In the context of skepticism and tensions covering the Middle East region, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres expressed his deep concern, and urged the parties to exercise restraint and refrain from acts that could complicate the situation further. Many countries in the region have issued security warnings and advised their citizens not to go to dangerous areas. Two regional summits later this month are being prepared in the hopes of finding a common voice, aiming to cool down tensions in the region which are being escalated to new dangerous levels.