Saudi Arabia and the coalition it leads in Yemen have blamed the Iranian-backed Houthis for targeting its Eastern Province with what Riyadh said was a ballistic missile.

“The Arab coalition has intercepted a ballistic missile launched from Yemen by the Iran-backed Houthis toward the Eastern Region of Saudi Arabia,” Al Arabiya reported, quoting official sources.

The Houthis were responsible for “deliberately targeting civilians and civilian objects,” the report said. “The coalition stressed that its forces are taking operational measures to protect civilians and deal with any threats.”

The long-range attack appeared to be some 1,000 km. from Yemen, and an explosion or interception was reported near Dhahran and Dammam, which are close to each other in eastern Saudi Arabia, near Bahrain.

This is an important area for Saudi Arabia’s energy sector and Aramco. In September 2019, Iran used cruise missiles and drones to attack the Abqaiq facility, which is also near Dammam. This time, Riyadh said the Houthis had carried out the missile attack.
An “aggressive ballistic attack on the Eastern Region was intercepted [and] foiled,” a Saudi TV channel reported, citing the coalition. The incident took place before 10 in the evening, it said.

According to online sleuths who post about open-source intelligence, flights were holding or diverted in the area during the incident. Videos showed what appeared to be an explosion and a missile in the sky. People had heard a missile’s impact, according to unconfirmed reports, which could be misinformation.

Saudis tweeting during the incident urged people not to spread rumors and refrain from saying precisely where the incident unfolded. This is because interceptions of missiles can sometimes lead people to believe they have seen an impact.
It was not clear if the attack was sophisticated, such as the September 2019 attack.

Tensions in Yemen are growing. The Saudis have backed the Yemen government against the Iranian-backed Houthis since 2015, when Riyadh led an intervention. However, Riyadh and its partners in the UAE have diverged in their policies recently, and the Houthis have carried out escalating drone and missile attacks on Saudi Arabia.

US skepticism about the Saudi war effort has emboldened Iran. The US withdrawal from Afghanistan also means the Houthis may sense victory. They have been trying to defeat pro-Yemen government forces in Marib.

A Houthi missile and drone attack killed 30 in Yemen in late August. In late July, Iranian drones attacked the Mercer Street ship off Oman, killing two people. The US, Israel and the UK blamed Iran. It is not clear if the drones were flown from Yemen.

Iran has delivered drones and missiles to Yemen’s Houthis. The US maintained an Iran Materials Display in Washington for years, showcasing the Iranian technology sent to Yemen. The UN recently condemned a Houthi attack on Abha International Airport in Saudi Arabia.

The tensions come as Saudi Arabia has hinted at greater security cooperation with Iraq. Iran views Iraq as part of its sphere of influence.

Meanwhile, Lebanon and Syria are working on a deal to get natural gas and electricity from Jordan and Egypt, a move that would reduce Iran’s attempts to send fuel to Lebanon via Syria through Hezbollah. A US Senate delegation was in Lebanon and Israel recently. President Isaac Herzog also visited Jordan recently.

This could be seen as bolstering countries in the region tied to Saudi Arabia, since monarchies in the Gulf, Jordan and Egypt work with Riyadh. In addition, Riyadh does not want more Iranian influence in Iraq or Lebanon. That is why the context of Saudi discussions with Iraq matters in relation to the Dammam attack.

The Houthis claimed to target Armaco on March 7, March 26 and April 12 this year. They struck at Jeddah and the Eastern Province and the Red Sea area in these attacks.

In the September 2019 attack, “Aramco’s critical Abqaiq crude processing plant and Khurais oil field were hit, temporarily knocking out 5.7 million [barrels per day] of production – almost 6% of global crude demand – and throwing the oil market into disarray,” a media report said. “However, it took just 10 days for Aramco to carry out sufficient repairs for the company’s total output to recover to 10 million barrels per day.”

The attack this March targeted Dammam. This means they have the technology to strike that far, and they have used drones and missiles.

Another missile was fired toward Najran on Saturday night, Saudi media outlets reported. Questions remain over what happened in the attack on Saturday evening. Reports that the Houthis had suffered a setback on the Marib front and about the arrest of a Houthi leader may also be related to the attack.

Source » jpost