US Report: Khamenei Approved Saudi Attack

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

US Report: Khamenei Approved Saudi Attack

Thursday, 19 September, 2019 – 09:00
Saudi Arabia displays the wreckage of the Iranian weapons that were used in the oil facilities attack. (SPA)
Asharq Al-Awsat
An American report revealed Wednesday that Iran’s supreme leader Ali Khamenei had approved the attack against two Saudi Aramco oil facilities last week.

He gave his blessing “but only on the condition that it be carried out in a way that made it possible to deny Iranian involvement,” a US official told CBS News.

Saudi Arabia on Wednesday displayed wreckage of Iranian cruise missiles and drones. The circuit boards can be reverse engineered to determine the exact route the weapons flew, said the report.

“But US officials said the most damning evidence is still unreleased satellite photos showing the Iranian Revolutionary Guard making preparations for the attack at Ahvaz Air Base in southwestern Iran,” it added.

The satellite photos were of no use in stopping the attack since their significance was not realized until after the fact, explained the report.

“We were caught completely off guard,” one US official said.

The Trump administration and Saudi Arabia have pointed the finger at Iran for the September 14 raids, which hit the world’s biggest crude oil processing facility and initially knocked out half of Saudi output.

The French army spokesman said it sent seven experts to Saudi Arabia to join an investigation.

UN officials monitoring sanctions on Iran and Yemen are also helping probe the attack.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has said the attacks, which he described as an “act of war” against Saudi Arabia, would be a major focus of next week’s annual UN General Assembly meeting.

He had arrived in Jeddah on Wednesday for talks with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defense.

It Is The Option And Duty Of The Saudi’s To Answer Iran, Not The U.S. To Do It

It Is The Option And Duty Of The Saudi’s To Answer Iran, Not The U.S. To Do It

 

The U.S. has been selling weapons to the Saudi government for decades now and training their military since at least the mid 1970’s, these things are recorded facts. I just reblogged an article from the New York Times on this same subject matter. If the Saudi’s wish to answer Iran’s acts of war against them it is now up to the Saudi Royal Family to do so. As the NYT said, we are not the Saudi’s mercenaries. The Saudi’s and Iran have been fighting a proxy war in Yemen for several years now and the US has been supplying the Saudi’s with Intel, bombs, missiles, jets and training during this whole time. This war that is going on between these two nations is in fact really an Islamic civil war that has been raging for almost 1,400 years now between the Sunni and the Shia factions of Islam. Russia has been supplying Iran with newer bigger better weapons just as the US has been doing with Saudi Arabia. If we attack Iran are we not risking also starting a direct war with Russia? It is my humble opinion that the best situation for the US military is to stand down unless Iran directly attacks us. At this point in time it is up to the Saudi’s to decide what their next actions will be and getting the US directly involved in another shooting war in another Islamic country should not be ‘on the table’ for the American government or our people, not yet, not at this time.

We’re Not the Saudis’ Mercenaries

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NEW YORK TIMES)

 

We’re Not the Saudis’ Mercenaries

Trump brought the crisis with Iran on himself.

Nicholas Kristof

By 

Opinion Columnist

ImageSecretary of State Mike Pompeo meeting with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Saudi Arabia on Wednesday.
CreditCreditPool photo by Mandel Ngan

Robert Gates, the former defense secretary, once scoffed that Saudi Arabia “wants to fight the Iranians to the last American.”

The danger is that we slip toward that nightmare. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says that Iran has committed an “act of war” by attacking Saudi oil processing centers. Influential hawks like Senator Lindsey Graham have suggested carrying out strikes on Iranian oil refineries.

Meanwhile, Iran is warning that it will retaliate for any strike with a “rapid and crushing” response.

President Trump faces a conundrum. If Iran was behind the attack on Saudi Arabia, that was a serious provocation. It’s reasonable to wonder if Iranian leaders are emboldened because they see Trump as someone full of just bluster and bombast.

“He is not a lion, he is a rabbit,” said Ali Bigdeli, a political analyst in Tehran, according to a Times article by David D. Kirkpatrick and Farnaz Fassihi.

Iran may have concluded that Trump is the mother of all bunny rabbits after the lack of any kinetic response to attacks on oil shipping in May and June, or to Iran’s shooting down of an American drone in June.

The upshot is that hawks are urging Trump to be tougher this time and to consider bombing Iranian targets. That would be even more dangerous than a perception of weakness, for it could quickly escalate. Iran would strike back at sites in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates or Bahrain, and it would target American troops in Iraq or Afghanistan.

A full war with Iran would be a catastrophe. Iran has twice the population of Iraq and would be a much more formidable foe than Iraq was.

So Trump has a genuine dilemma: Inaction may be perceived as weakness, while military strikes may escalate and drag us into cataclysm. But this is a dilemma of Trump’s own making.

We are in this mess because Trump abandoned the landmark 2015 Iranian nuclear deal. Hawks argued that we could apply maximum pressure on Iran and inflict such pain that it would buckle, without appreciating that Iran could also ramp up the pressure on us.

That’s the problem with hawks. They plan out their chess games and triumphantly plot a checkmate without appreciating the basic lesson of Sun Tzu or Clausewitz that the other side also gets to move.

Unfortunately, without the Iran nuclear deal, all options are bad. We should be searching for ways to return to the agreement, with face-saving tweaks that would allow both Trump and the Iranian supreme leader to claim victory.

Instead, I’m afraid we risk slipping into conflict. Nobody wants a war, but getting out of this will require skillful diplomacy, which isn’t something the Trump team has much demonstrated.

We need not be Saudi Arabia’s guard dog, or lap dog. Yes, Iran is a threat to international security — but so is Saudi Arabia. It is Saudi Arabia that kidnapped Lebanon’s prime minister, caused a schism with Qatar and created the world’s worst humanitarian crisis in Yemen.

Attacking Saudi oil installations was a breach of global norms — as was murdering and dismembering a columnist for The Washington Post who was a resident of the United States. Saudi Arabia has the gall to call for an international inquiry into the attack on its oil installations, even as it blocks any international investigation into the murder of my friend Jamal Khashoggi.

Macabre new transcripts show that the Saudi hit squad was discussing the dismemberment even before Jamal walked into the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul. “I know how to cut very well,” one member of the team said. “I have never worked on a warm body, though.”

Saudi Arabia continues to imprison a Nobel Peace Prize nominee, Loujain al-Hathloul, after earlier torturing and sexually assaulting her for advocating women’s rights. The kingdom apparently offered Hathloul freedom if she would publicly deny that she had been tortured; she bravely refused.

Trump might seek Saudi input on whether to go to war with Iran by placing a call not only to a killer on a throne but also to a hero in prison.

If Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman wants to respond militarily to the airstrikes on its oil facilities, he can go ahead with the kingdom’s own fighter jets and missiles. But this is not our fight. Nor should it be our graveyard.

This is a struggle between two misogynistic, repressive regimes that are both destabilizing the region. And Trump’s suggestion that we will be well paid for defending Saudi Arabia is an insult to our troops, casting them as mercenaries working for a thuggish potentate.

Our task instead should be to cooperate with European countries to get out of this muck and find a way back into the Iranian nuclear agreement.

The Times is committed to publishing a diversity of letters to the editor. We’d like to hear what you think about this or any of our articles. Here are some tips. And here’s our email: [email protected].

Nicholas Kristof has been a columnist for The Times since 2001. He has won two Pulitzer Prizes, for his coverage of China and of the genocide in Darfur. You can sign up for his free, twice-weekly email newsletter and follow him on Instagram@NickKristof  Facebook

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Britain, Germany Slam Attack on Saudi Oil Plants, US Again Blames Iran

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

Britain, Germany Slam Attack on Saudi Oil Plants, US Again Blames Iran

Monday, 16 September, 2019 – 11:45
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson. (Reuters)
Asharq Al-Awsat
Britain and Germany condemned on Monday the attacks against Saudi Aramco oil facilities in Abqaiq and Khurais.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson stands in support of his Saudi Arabian allies following an attack on its oil facilities which marked a “wanton violation of international law”, his spokesman said.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas slammed the attack, saying “the situation is exceedingly worrisome.”

He added that Berlin is currently evaluating with its partners, “who is responsible for this attack, how it could happen.”

Washington has blamed Iran for the attack.

The Tehran-backed Houthi militias in Yemen claimed Saturday’s strikes on the plants.

US President Donald Trump said Sunday the United States is “locked and loaded” to respond to the attack.

His accusations were echoed Monday by US Secretary of Energy Rick Perry, who said: “The United States wholeheartedly condemns Iran’s attack on Saudi Arabia and we call on other nations to do the same.”

In an address to the International Atomic Energy Agency’s general conference in Vienna, he said “this behavior is unacceptable” and that Iran “must be held responsible.”

“Make no mistake about it, this was a deliberate attack on the global economy and the global energy market,” he stressed.

He said Trump has authorized the release of strategic oil reserves should the US need them, and that his “department stands ready” to proceed if necessary.

Perry also added that “despite Iran’s malign efforts we are very confident that the market is resilient and will respond.”

Tehran and Washington have been at loggerheads since May last year, when Trump pulled the US out of a 2015 deal with world powers that promised Iran relief from sanctions in return for curbs on its nuclear program.

France, Lebanon Condemn Attacks on Saudi Oil Facilities

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF SAUDI ARABIA’S ASHARQ AL-AWSAT NEWS)

 

France, Lebanon Condemn Attacks on Saudi Oil Facilities

Sunday, 15 September, 2019 – 11:15
Smoke is seen following a fire at Aramco facility in the eastern city of Abqaiq, Saudi Arabia, September 14, 2019. (Reuters)
Asharq Al-Awsat
France condemns attacks on Saudi oil facilities that have disrupted global production, the country’s foreign ministry said on Sunday.

“France firmly condemns yesterday’s attacks on the Abqaiq and Khurais oil installations,” the ministry said in a statement that also expressed “complete solidarity” with Saudi Arabia.

“These actions can only worsen regional tensions and risk of conflict,” the French statement added. “It is imperative that they stop.”

Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri slammed on Sunday the attacks, deeming them a “dangerous escalation that threatens to widen the arena of conflicts in the region.”

He said the attacks demand that the international community assume major responsibilities to put an end to “aggression and terrorism that are sweeping through the Arab world and jeopardizing regional stability.”

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Saturday accused Iran of launching attacks on Saudi oil plants, ruling out the involvement of the Tehran-aligned Houthi militias in Yemen.

The Houthis claimed credit for the attacks, but Pompeo firmly placed blame on Iran.

“Tehran is behind nearly 100 attacks on Saudi Arabia while Rouhani and Zarif pretend to engage in diplomacy,” Pompeo said, referring to Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani and Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif.

“Amid all the calls for de-escalation, Iran has now launched an unprecedented attack on the world’s energy supply,” he added.

Saudi Arabia oil facilities ablaze after drone strikes

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE BBC)

 

Saudi Arabia oil facilities ablaze after drone strikes

Media caption Abqaiq is the site of Aramco’s largest oil processing plant

Drone attacks have set alight two major oil facilities run by the state-owned company Aramco in Saudi Arabia, state media say.

Footage showed a huge blaze at Abqaiq, site of Aramco’s largest oil processing plant, while a second drone attack started fires in the Khurais oilfield.

The fires are now under control at both facilities, state media said.

A spokesman for the Iran-aligned Houthi group in Yemen said it had deployed 10 drones in the attacks.

The military spokesman, Yahya Sarea, told al-Masirah TV, which is owned by the Houthi movement and is based in Beirut, that further attacks could be expected in the future.

He said Saturday’s attack was one of the biggest operations the Houthi forces had undertaken inside Saudi Arabia and was carried out in “co-operation with the honorable people inside the kingdom”.

Saudi officials have not yet commented on who they think is behind the attacks.

“At 04:00 (01:00 GMT), the industrial security teams of Aramco started dealing with fires at two of its facilities in Abqaiq and Khurais as a result of… drones,” the official Saudi Press Agency reported.

“The two fires have been controlled.”

Map

There have been no details on the damage but Agence France-Presse quoted interior ministry spokesman Mansour al-Turki as saying there were no casualties.

Abqaiq is about 60km (37 miles) south-west of Dhahran in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province, while Khurais, some 200km further south-west, has the country’s second largest oilfield.

Saudi security forces foiled an attempt by al-Qaeda to attack the Abqaiq facility with suicide bombers in 2006.


An attack method open to all

Jonathan Marcus, BBC defence and diplomatic correspondent

This latest attack underlines the strategic threat posed by the Houthis to Saudi Arabia’s oil installations.

The growing sophistication of the Houthis’ drone operations is bound to renew the debate as to where this capability comes from. Have the Houthis simply weaponised commercial civilian drones or have they had significant assistance from Iran?

The Trump administration is likely to point the finger squarely at Tehran, but experts vary in the extent to which they think Iran is facilitating the drone campaign.

The Saudi Air Force has been pummelling targets in Yemen for years. Now the Houthis have a capable, if much more limited, ability to strike back. It shows that the era of armed drone operations being restricted to a handful of major nations is now over.

Drone technology – albeit of varying degrees of sophistication – is available to all; from the US to China, Israel and Iran… and from the Houthis to Hezbolllah.


Markets await news from key facilities

Analysis by BBC business correspondent Katie Prescott

Aramco ranks as the world’s largest oil business and these facilities are significant.

The Khurais oilfield produces about 1% of the world’s oil and Abqaiq is the company’s largest facility – with the capacity to process 7% of the global supply. Even a brief or partial disruption could affect the company, and the oil supply, given their size.

But whether this will have an impact on the oil price come Monday will depend on just how extensive the damage is. Markets now have the weekend to digest information from Aramco and assess the long-term impact.

According to Richard Mallinson, geopolitical analyst at Energy Aspects, any reaction on Monday morning is likely to be muted, as markets are less worried about supply than demand at the moment, due to slower global economic growth and the ongoing trade war between the US and China.

However, there are concerns that escalating tensions in the region could pose a broader risk, potentially threatening the fifth of the world’s oil supply that goes through the critical Strait of Hormuz.


Who are the Houthis?

The Iran-aligned Houthi rebel movement has been fighting the Yemeni government and a Saudi-led coalition.

Yemen has been at war since 2015, when President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi was forced to flee the capital Sanaa by the Houthis. Saudi Arabia backs President Hadi, and has led a coalition of regional countries against the rebels.

The coalition launches air strikes almost every day, while the Houthis often fire missiles into Saudi Arabia.

Mr Sarea, the Houthi group’s military spokesman, told al-Masirah that operations against Saudi targets would “only grow wider and will be more painful than before, so long as their aggression and blockade continues”.

Saudi-led coalition air strike on Dhamar in Yemen, 1 SeptImage copyrightEPA
Image captionSaudi-led coalition air strikes regularly target Houthis in Yemen

Houthi fighters were blamed for drone attacks on the Shaybah natural gas liquefaction facility last month and on other oil facilities in May.

There have been other sources of tension in the region, often stemming from the rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

Saudi Arabia and the US both blamed Iran for attacks in the Gulf on two oil tankers in June and July, allegations Tehran denied.

In May, four tankers, two of them Saudi-flagged, were damaged by explosions within the UAE’s territorial waters in the Gulf of Oman.

Saudi Arabia and then US National Security Adviser John Bolton blamed Iran. Tehran said the accusations were “ridiculous”.

Tension in the vital shipping lanes worsened when Iran shot down a US surveillance drone over the Strait of Hormuz in June, leading a month later to the Pentagon announcing the deployment of US troops to Saudi Arabia.

Related Topics

Saudi Arabia: Unemployment Declines to 12.3% in Q2

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

Saudi Arabia: Unemployment Declines to 12.3% in Q2

Friday, 13 September, 2019 – 10:45
Riyadh- Asharq Al-Awsat
The unemployment rate among Saudi Arabian citizens dropped to 12.3 percent in Q2 2019 compared to 12.5 percent in Q1, according to data from the Saudi General Authority for Statistics (GaStat).

Unemployment in the kingdom (citizens and residents) fell to 5.6 percent in the second quarter, compared to 6 percent in Q1 2019.

The economic reforms implemented within Saudi Vision 2030 have proven efficiency through the continuous drop of the unemployment rate in Saudi Arabia.

There has been an increase of 23.2 percent in the economic participation of Saudi women in the second quarter of 2019 compared to 20.5 percent in the previous quarter. The overall economic participation of Saudis reached 45 percent in the second quarter compared to 42.3 percent in the first quarter.

The decline is attributed to Saudi Vision 2030 programs aiming at boosting the involvement of citizens in the private sector and creating jobs in new fields of entertainment, cinema, and sports for women.

The Saudi government leads several government initiatives such as developing a specialized agency to empower women in the government sector through the Ministry of Civil Service, as well as the support provided by Saudi Vision 2030 programs for women such as eliminating social restrictions that limit them from taking part in the labor market.

The estimated total of Saudi job-seekers during the Q2 is one million. Yet, not all of them meet the unemployment standards known by the International Labor Organization.

The GASTA clarified job seekers as Saudi men and women registered in the government in search of a job through the Jadara and Saaed portals of the Ministry of Civil Service and the Taqat portal of Human Resources Development Fund.

The data was collected from the administrative records of the relevant authorities such as the Ministry of Labor and Social Development, Ministry of Civil Service, the General Organization for Social Insurance, the Human Resources Development Fund, and the National Information Center.

Saudi Arabia Opens its Doors to Tourists by End of 2019

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

Saudi Arabia Opens its Doors to Tourists by End of 2019

Thursday, 12 September, 2019 – 08:45
Visitors walk outside the tombs at the Madain Saleh antiquities site, al-Ula, Saudi Arabia February 10, 2019. Picture taken February 10, 2019. REUTERS/Stephen Kalin
Saint Petersburg – Asharq Al-Awsat
Saudi Arabia will open its doors to tourists from around the world by the end of 2019, the head of the Saudi Tourism and Heritage Authority, Ahmad al-Khatib, said on Wednesday.

Khatib made the announcement during his speech at the meeting of the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), which is held in the Russian city of St. Petersburg on September 9-13.

The Organization’s secretary-general, Zurab Pololikashvili, praised the ambitious plan led by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz to place the Kingdom at the forefront of global tourism destinations.

In March, UNWTO’s general assembly approved Saudi Arabia’s membership in the executive council of the Organization for the Middle East region for the third time in a row. The Kingdom has retained its seats in the Tourism Statistics Committee and the Program and Budget Committee, and also joined the Executive Committee’s Membership Review Committee.

Saudi Arabia has provided some USD1.7 million to fund cooperation with the international organization, according to the Saudi Press Agency (SPA).

“Saudi Arabia is proud to be one of the first countries to work with the organization in the preliminary studies for the Measuring Sustainable Tourism (MST) project,” Khatib said in his speech.

The head of the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Heritage also announced ongoing cooperation with UNWTO for the preparation of a strategy for the development of human capital in tourism, and the establishment of a tourism academy.

He noted that his country has invited the Executive Council to meet in Saudi Arabia in 2020.

Jordan’s State Teachers Hold Open Strike

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

Jordan’s State Teachers Hold Open Strike

Sunday, 8 September, 2019 – 09:00
Jordanian protesters hold Jordanian national flags as they chant slogans during a protest against U.S. President Donald Trump’s “Deal of the Century”, after the Friday prayer in Amman, Jordan, June 21, 2019. REUTERS/Muhammad Hamed
Amman – Mohammed Kheir Al Rawashda
Jordan’s public school teachers’ union called for a strike on Sunday in demand for a pay increase. This follows news of the government tying state teachers’ raises to career variables–performance gauges set by the ministry of education–which the union vehemently rejected.

The strike will continue to be held despite ongoing dialogue between the union and state, sources told Asharq Al-Awsat, stressing that the union is in debate for a series of escalatory actions should their demands remain unmet.

Well-informed sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that union official Nasser Al Nawasra refused a government offer and maintained the union’s demands for an unconditioned pay increase to all state teachers.

“There was an agreement on this with the government, but the government backtracked on its commitment,” teachers’ union spokesman Noureddine Nadim said in a statement Thursday.

Nawasra told AFP that public school teachers were “the lowest-paid public officials.”

“I’ve been teaching for 24 years, and my salary doesn’t go above 760 dinars ($1,070)” per month, al-Nawasra said.

The teachers’ union was established in 2011 and includes about 140,000 members. Organizers of the demonstration in the capital, Amman, said the government has yet to deliver on a 50 percent wage increase agreed upon in 2014.

It is worth noting that the streets of Jordanian cities saw mass protests last year over spiking consumer prices.

The government said in a statement that it is committed to dialogue with the teachers but that classes should not be interrupted and performance must improve.

Early on, during the teachers’ sit-in, the government arrested 49 teachers who were later released on bail on Thursday.

Government circles accuse Islamist in Jordan of egging the union on for the strikes by several associates.

“We respect the teachers and we salute their role and their mission, but the 50% increase demanded by the union will add JOD 112 million ($158 million) to the state budget,” Ministry of Education spokesman Walid Jallad said in a statement.

72% Trade Volume Hike between Saudi, Russia in Q1 2019

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

72% Trade Volume Hike between Saudi, Russia in Q1 2019

Wednesday, 21 August, 2019 – 08:30
Riyadh- Fatehelrahman Yousif
Moscow affirmed holding strategic relations with Riyadh in all fields, revealing that the trade volume between Russia and Saudi Arabia during the Q1 2019 increased by 72%.

The office of Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak told Asharq Al-Awsat that there was trade growth between the two countries from January to April 2019.

The volume of trade rose by 72%, reaching $ 505.2 million, compared to the same period last year.

“We have many points of intersection and mutual interests, as there is a certain mutual desire to boost cooperation in such fields as industry, peaceful use of atomic energy, innovation, the space sector, and agriculture,” Novak’s office stated.

Energy Ministers noted the importance of increasing cooperation especially in promising sectors and pointed to the inking of agreements in previous meetings. Both sides also voiced their support for the currently shared technical cooperation in the fuel and energy sectors.

Novak’s office also confirmed Moscow and Riyadh’s commitment to efforts spent by OPEC and non-OPEC oil-producing countries to stabilize global oil market and reduce volatility.

It also noted the importance of joint efforts to stabilize the market, stressing the determination of producers to ensure stability, predictability, and gradual development of the market.