Archive for September 16, 2019

Off Topic:  The Hard Truth, Episode 3: Anti-Semitism with Daniel Morchy #WalkAway Education Series

September 16, 2019

 

 

Trump Blames Iran for Attack on Saudi Arabian Oil Facility 

September 16, 2019

 

 

Iranian general says country ready for ‘full-fledged war’ with US 

September 16, 2019

Source: Iranian general says country ready for ‘full-fledged war’ with US | The Times of Israel

Amir Ali Hajizadeh warns that American bases up to 2,000 kilometers away are ‘within the range of our missiles,’ after Washington blamed Tehran for Houthi attack on Saudi oil

Commander of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) Aerospace Force Brigadier General Amir Ali Hajizadeh. (screen capture: YouTube/MEMRITVVideos)

A top Iranian commander warned on Sunday that Tehran was prepared for an all-out war with the United States and said his country could launch advanced missiles at US bases and aircraft carriers within a range of 2,000 kilometers (1,242 miles).

The statement appeared to be a response to Washington casting blame on Iran Saturday after Yemen’s Houthi rebels launched drone attacks on the world’s largest oil processing facility in Saudi Arabia and a major oil field, sparking huge fires at a vulnerable chokepoint for global energy supplies.

Saudi Arabia’s energy minister said the kingdom was temporarily halting production at two Aramco oil facilities that were attacked by the Yemeni rebels, interrupting about half of the company’s total output.

The Iranian-backed Houthis, who hold Yemen’s capital, Sanaa, and other territory in the Arab world’s poorest country, took responsibility for the attacks in the war against a Saudi-led coalition that has fought since 2015 to reinstate the internationally recognized Yemeni government. But the US blamed Iran, with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tweeting, “There is no evidence the attacks came from Yemen.”

“Iran has now launched an unprecedented attack on the world’s energy supply,” Pompeo added.

On Sunday, the commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Aerospace Force, Amir Ali Hajizadeh, was quoted by the semi-official Tasnim news agency as saying: “Everybody should know that all American bases and their aircraft carriers in a distance of up to 2,000 kilometers around Iran are within the range of our missiles,” according to Reuters.

“Iran has always been ready for a ‘full-fledged’ war,” Hajizadeh added, without directly mentioning the attacks in Saudi Arabia.

ILLUSTRATIVE — A gas flame is seen near the Khurais oil facility in an area where operations are being expanded, about 60 miles southeast of Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, June 23, 2008 (AP Photo/Hasan Jamali)

Also on Sunday, Iran’s foreign ministry dismissed the US accusations as “meaningless,” suggesting they were a pretext to retaliate against the Islamic Republic.

“Such fruitless and blind accusations and remarks are incomprehensible and meaningless,” ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi was quoted as saying in a statement.

The allegations over Saturday’s strikes were meant to justify “future actions” against Iran, he added.

The drone attacks affected up to half of the supplies from the world’s largest exporter of oil, though the output should be restored within days, multiple news outlets reported, citing unidentified sources. It was unclear whether anyone was injured at the Abqaiq oil processing facility and the Khurais oil field.

The attacks followed weeks of similar drone assaults on the kingdom’s oil infrastructure, but none of the earlier strikes appeared to have caused the same amount of damage. The attacks likely will further increase tensions across the Persian Gulf amid an escalating crisis between the US and Iran over its unraveling nuclear deal with world powers.

Iran has stepped up its verbal attacks on the United States in reaction to President Donald Trump nixing the 2015 nuclear deal and ramping up economic sanctions against the Islamic Republic, which have hobbled its economy.

Nevertheless, there has been talk of a potential meeting between Trump and his Iranian counterpart, Hassan Rouhani, although the latter has said bilateral talks with the US are useless unless sanctions are lifted first. While Trump has said he is ready for a meetup with no preconditions, US Treasury chief Steve Mnuchin said Thursday that such a meeting was not yet in the cards.

 

Trump: US locked and loaded for response to attack on Saudis 

September 16, 2019

Source: Trump: US locked and loaded for response to attack on Saudis | The Times of Israel

President says waiting for final confirmation of identity of attackers; approves the release of US strategic petroleum reserves ‘if needed’ to stabilize energy markets

This image provided on Sunday, Sept. 15, 2019, by the US government and DigitalGlobe and annotated by the source, shows damage to the infrastructure at Saudi Aramco's Abaqaiq oil processing facility in Buqyaq, Saudi Arabia. The drone attack Saturday on Saudi Arabia's Abqaiq plant and its Khurais oil field led to the interruption of an estimated 5.7 million barrels of the kingdom's crude oil production per day, equivalent to more than 5% of the world's daily supply. (U.S. government/Digital Globe via AP)

This image provided on Sunday, Sept. 15, 2019, by the US government and DigitalGlobe and annotated by the source, shows damage to the infrastructure at Saudi Aramco’s Abaqaiq oil processing facility in Buqyaq, Saudi Arabia. The drone attack Saturday on Saudi Arabia’s Abqaiq plant and its Khurais oil field led to the interruption of an estimated 5.7 million barrels of the kingdom’s crude oil production per day, equivalent to more than 5% of the world’s daily supply. (U.S. government/Digital Globe via AP)

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — A weekend drone attack on Saudi Arabia that cut into global energy supplies and halved the kingdom’s oil production threatened Sunday to fuel a regional crisis, as the US released new evidence to back up its allegation that Iran was responsible for the assault amid heightened tensions over Tehran’s collapsing nuclear deal.

President Donald Trump said the US had reason to believe it knew who was behind the attack — his secretary of state had blamed Iran the previous day — and assured his Twitter followers that “we are … locked and loaded” depending on verification and were waiting to hear from the Saudis as to who they believe was behind the attack and “under what terms we would proceed!”

The tweets followed a National Security Council meeting at the White House that included Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary Mark Esper.

Hours earlier, senior US officials said satellite imagery and other intelligence showed the strike was inconsistent with one launched from Yemen, where Iranian-backed Houthi rebels had claimed responsibility.

Donald J. Trump

@realDonaldTrump

Iran, meanwhile, called the US claims “maximum lies,” while a commander in its paramilitary Revolutionary Guard reiterated its forces could strike US military bases across the Mideast with their arsenal of ballistic missiles.

The US government produced satellite photos showing what officials said were at least 19 points of impact at two Saudi energy facilities, including damage at the heart of the kingdom’s crucial oil processing plant at Abqaiq. Officials said the photos show impacts consistent with the attack coming from the direction of Iran or Iraq, rather than from Yemen to the south.

Iraq denied Sunday that its territory was used for an attack on the Kingdom and US officials said a strike from there would be a violation of Iraq’s sovereignty.

The US officials said additional devices, which apparently didn’t reach their targets, were recovered northwest of the facilities and are being jointly analyzed by Saudi and American intelligence. The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence matters, did not address whether the drone could have been fired from Yemen, then taken a round-about path, but did not explicitly rule it out.

The attacks and recriminations are increasing already heightened fears of an escalation in the region, after a prominent US senator suggested striking Iranian oil refineries in response to the assault, and Iran warned of the potential of more violence.

“Because of the tension and sensitive situation, our region is like a powder keg,” said Iranian Brig. Gen. Amir Ali Hajizadeh. “When these contacts come too close, when forces come into contact with one another, it is possible a conflict happens because of a misunderstanding.”

Satellite image from Planet Labs Inc. shows thick black smoke rising from Saudi Aramco’s Abqaiq oil processing facility in Buqyaq, Saudi Arabia, Saturday, September 14, 2019. (Planet Labs Inc via AP)

Actions on any side could break into the open a twilight war that’s been raging just below the surface of the wider Persian Gulf in recent months. Already, there have been mysterious attacks on oil tankers that America blames on Tehran, at least one suspected Israeli strike on Shiite forces in Iraq, and Iran shooting down a US military surveillance drone.

The attack Saturday on Saudi Arabia’s Abqaiq plant and its Khurais oil field led to the interruption of an estimated 5.7 million barrels of the kingdom’s crude oil production per day, equivalent to more than 5% of the world’s daily supply. It remained unclear how King Salman and his assertive son, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, will respond to an attack targeting the heart of the Saudi oil industry.

Crude oil futures shot up 9.5% to $60 as trading opened Sunday evening in New York, a dramatic increase. A spike in oil prices could have negative effects for the global economy.

Saudi Arabia has promised to fill in the cut in production with its reserves, but has not said how long it will take to repair the damage. The Wall Street Journal cited Saudi officials as saying a third of output would be restored on Monday, but a return to full production may take weeks.

Trump said he had approved the release of US strategic petroleum reserves “if needed” to stabilize energy markets. The president said the final amount of the release, if any, would be “sufficient to keep the markets well-supplied.”

Images from the European Commission’s Sentinel-2 satellite examined by the AP showed black char marks at the heart of the Abqaiq plant on Sunday, marks not seen over the prior month. Identical marks are visible on the US imagery. The Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies in August identified the area with the char marks as the plant’s stabilization area. The center said the area includes “storage tanks and processing and compressor trains — which greatly increases the likelihood of a strike successfully disrupting or destroying its operations.”

The state-run oil giant Saudi Aramco, which the kingdom hopes to offer a sliver of in a public stock offering, did not respond to a request for comment.

Pompeo directly blamed Iran for the Saudi attack on Twitter late Saturday, and officials worked to provide evidence for his claim the following day.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks during a briefing on terrorism financing at the White House, Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2019, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

“Amid all the calls for de-escalation, Iran has now launched an unprecedented attack on the world’s energy supply,” Pompeo wrote. “There is no evidence the attacks came from Yemen.”

The US, Western nations, their Gulf Arab allies and UN experts say Iran supplies the Houthis with weapons and drones — a charge that Tehran denies.

US officials previously alleged at least one recent drone attack on Saudi Arabia came from Iraq, where Iran backs Shiite militias. Those militias in recent weeks have been targeted themselves by mysterious airstrikes, with at least one believed to have been carried out by Israel.

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi on Sunday dismissed Pompeo’s remarks as “blind and futile comments.”

“The Americans adopted the ‘maximum pressure’ policy against Iran, which, due to its failure, is leaning toward ‘maximum lies,’” Mousavi said in a statement.

Separately, Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi’s office issued a statement on Sunday denying the drone attack came from there. Oil-rich Kuwait also said it would increase security around the country’s “vital sites” over the attacks.

Houthi leader Muhammad al-Bukhaiti reiterated his group’s claim of responsibility, telling The Associated Press on Sunday it exploited “vulnerabilities” in Saudi air defenses to strike the targets. He did not elaborate.

Iran, meanwhile, kept up its own threats.

Hajizadeh, the brigadier general who leads the country’s aerospace program, said in an interview published across Iranian media Sunday that Revolutionary Guard forces were ready for a counterattack if America responded, naming the Al-Udeid Air Base in Qatar and Al-Dhafra Air Base near Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates as immediate targets, as well as US Navy ships in the Persian Gulf and the Arabian Sea.

“Wherever they are, it only takes one spark and we hit their vessels, their air bases, their troops,” he said in a video published online with English subtitles.

With the UN General Assembly taking place in a little over a week, there had been speculation of a potential meeting between Trump and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on the summit’s sidelines, possibly in exchange for the lifting of some economic sanctions the American leader imposed on Tehran after unilaterally withdrawing from the nuclear accord over a year ago.

But Trump seemed to reject that idea Sunday night, tweeting: “The Fake News is saying that I am willing to meet with Iran, ‘No Conditions.’ That is an incorrect statement (as usual!).” In fact, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told reporters last week that “the president has said that he is prepared to meet with no conditions.”

If Iran had a hand in Saturday’s attack, it could be to bolster their position ahead of any talks, analysts say.

“The main point for Iran, in my opinion, is not necessarily to derail a meeting between Trump and Rouhani but to increase its leverage ahead of it,” said Michael Horowitz, the head of intelligence at the Bahrain-based risk management firm Le Beck International. “By carrying out such a major attack, Iran wants to send the message that the only way to decrease tensions is to comply with its demands regarding sanctions relief.”

However, he warned there could be a danger of Iran “overplaying” its hand.

“There will be no political benefit for Trump in a meeting with Rouhani if this meeting sends the message that the U.S. simply surrendered to Iranian demands,” he said.

 

US intel suspects Iranian cruise missiles hit Saudi oil facilities from Iraq base – DEBKAfile

September 16, 2019

Source: US intel suspects Iranian cruise missiles hit Saudi oil facilities from Iraq base – DEBKAfile

US intelligence experts are studying satellite images and other video evidence to track the source in Iraq of the major attack on key Saudi oil facilities on Saturday, Sept. 14.

Their first discovery was that cruise missiles rather than drones struck the Saudi oil refineries at Abqaiq, the largest in the world, and its second largest oil field at Khurais – both in the kingdom’s Eastern Provinces. They have also confirmed that the missiles were launched from a pro-Iranian Iraqi Shiite militia base, despite Baghdad’s denials.

DEBKAfile’s military and intelligence sources report that the investigation is also using video coverage by local Saudis showing multiple cruise missiles coming from the north and heading across the border towards the targeted locations in eastern Saudi Arabia. On one, a missile was clearly shown flying over the main border crossing at Hafar al-Batin and shot down by a Saudi air defense missile, although Saudi officials, in reporting the attack – large and disruptive enough to reduce the kingdom’s oil production by five million barrels a day, nearly half its output – have said nothing about intercepting any offensive projectiles. The two images carried at the top of this item show the wreckage of Iranian cruise missiles shot down near the Abqaiq processing plant.

The attack represented a major spike in Iranian aggression against Saudi Arabia. Its import is shattering enough strategically to challenges Washington and Riyadh for a response in kind, namely a strike at Iran’s oil processing plants. The US and Saudi Arabia both possess the military resources for a comparable reprisal against Iran and will find it hard to evade this challenge.

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, a valued adviser to President Donald Trump, Sunday urged the White House  to consider hitting Iran back for its devastating attacks on Saudi Arabia’s oil industry. “Hitting Iran’s own refineries would break the regime’s back,” he said and warned that Iran would not stop its “provocations” until it was forced to face the consequences.

According to our sources, the Trump administration can hold back for no more than a few days to release the results of its investigations into the attack on Saudi oil infrastructure. Washington will face heavy pressure to go public with those findings – not least, because the Iranian attack was likely just the first of a new wave of aggression against Gulf oil targets and other US allies, including Israel.
With this in mind, Maj. Gen. Aharon Haliva, OC Operations Directorate, commented on Sunday: “We are facing a complex reality of the kind we have not known for many years. The next confrontation may erupt any day.”