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In the Middle East the Houthi-Iranian alliance continues to harass forces of the Saudi-Israeli-US bloc with renewed vigour.
On November 25, a Greek-managed oil tanker was damaged in an attack on a Saudi petroleum terminal located near the Red Sea city of Jeddah. Col. Turki Al-Malki, a spokesman for the coalition, said the tanker was hit by shrapnel resulting from an attack by the Yemeni Houthis using a water-born improvised explosive device. The spokesman claimed that the WBIED was intercepted. Nevertheless, the tanker’s operator, the Athens-based TMS Tankers, said the Maltese-flagged Agrari received a direct hit.
“The Agrari was struck about one meter above the waterline and has suffered a breach,” the company said in a statement. “It has been confirmed that the crew are safe and there have been no injuries. No pollution has been reported. The vessel is in ballast condition and stable.”
The Saudi Ministry of Energy said firefighters had extinguished a fire that had erupted after the attack. A spokesman for the ministry stressed that Aramco’s fuel supplies to its customers were not affected by the incident. At the same time, satellite images show a large oil spill off the shores of Jeddah’s terminal.
The Houthis (also known as Ansar Allah) have not claimed responsibility for the attack. However, the usage of WBIEDs by the movement was widely documented in the previous years of war.
Just a few days ago, on November 23, the Houthis struck a Saudi Aramco oil company distribution station near Jeddah with a Quds-2 cruise missile. According to the Yemeni movement, the missile was developed and produced by its Missile Forces. Nonetheless, the Houthi successes in missile and drone development during a total naval and air blockade would hardly be possible without Iranian help.
In these conditions, it is interesting to look at the timeframe of the Houthi strikes on Saudi Arabia. The movement says that its strikes on Saudi military and oil infrastructure are retaliatory actions to regular acts of Saudi aggression against Yemen, including airstrikes on civilian targets. Years after the ‘victorious’ Saudi intervention in Yemen, the Saudi-led coalition has still not been able to even reach the country’s capital. So, the Kingdom uses its air dominance to punish the Yemenis for their own setbacks on the battleground. However, it seems that there is one more factor motivating the Houthis. Both recent attacks on Saudi Arabia took place after Israeli strikes on Iranian-affiliated targets in Syria.
Here is the timeframe: On November 18, the Israeli Air Force struck the countryside of Damascus and the south of Syria. On November 23, a cruise missile hit the Saudi Aramco distribution station near Jeddah. Early on November 25, the Israeli military once again launched missiles at Iranian targets near Damascus and in the south. Later on the same day, a WBIED targeted a Saudi terminal off the Red Sea. The slightly delayed response to the November 18 strike could be explained by the fact that the Houthi-Iranian alliance needed a few days to prepare for the resumption of actions against Saudi targets, which were on a relative decrease in the preceding months due to the Houthi focus on the ground offensive in the Yemeni province of Marib and nearby areas. As to Iranian sources, they are as expected denying any links between Israeli strikes on Syria and missiles, drones and WBIEDs targetting Saudi Arabia.
At the same time, the Kingdom’s role as lamb to the slaughter in the ongoing regional standoff between Iranian-led forces and the Israeli-US bloc is not news to independent observers. Saudi Arabia predetermined its current position with its own launching of the failed military intervention in Yemen and by actively aligning itself with Israel in both public and clandestine dimensions.