Yemen’s Houthi rebels launched drone attacks on the world’s largest oil processing facility in Saudi Arabia and a major oil field Saturday, sparking huge fires and halting about half of the supplies from the world’s largest exporter of oil. The attacks were the latest of many drone assaults on the kingdom’s oil infrastructure in recent weeks, but easily the most damaging. They raise concerns about the global oil supply and likely will further increase tensions across the Persian Gulf amid an escalating crisis between the U.S. and Iran over its unraveling nuclear deal with world powers. The attacks resulted in “the temporary suspension of production operations” at the Abqaiq oil processing facility and the Khurais oil field, Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman said in a statement carried by the state-run Saudi Press Agency. The fires “were controlled,” the statement said, and no workers were injured. The fires led to the interruption of an estimated 5.7 million barrels in crude supplies, according to the statement, which said part of that would be offset with stockpiles. The statement said Saudi Aramco, the state-owned oil giant, would provide updated information in the next 48 hours. 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 U.S. blamed Iran, with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tweeting, “There is no evidence
Fighting between their allies in southern Yemen has opened a gaping wound in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates’ coalition against the country’s rebels. If they can’t fix it, it threatens to tear the country apart into even smaller warring pieces. Last week saw a stunning escalation in the turmoil in the south, as Emirati warplanes blasted fighters loyal to Yemen’s internationally recognized president, Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi — the man the coalition is supposed to be trying to restore to power. Dozens were killed, and the UAE rubbed salt in the wound by calling Hadi’s forces “terrorists.” Hadi’s loyalists call the strike a “turning point” and accuse the UAE of fomenting a coup by its allied militias to topple his government and seek secession in the south. In August, the militias overran Aden and other southern cities, driving out Hadi’s forces in bloody fighting. When they tried to expand into oil-rich Shabwa province, the Saudis rushed supplies to Hadi’s forces to drive them back. With U.S. backing, Saudi Arabia and the UAE launched their coalition in 2015 to fight the Iran-backed Shiite rebels, known as Houthis, who had seized the capital, Sanaa, and large parts of the country. The coalition vowed to stop what it considers an Iranian takeover attempt. The ensuing civil war has killed tens of thousands, driven millions from their homes, destroyed the country and thrown much of the population into near starvation. Yet four years later, the Houthis remain in control of much of
“Individuals in the Government of Yemen and the coalition, including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, may have conducted airstrikes in violation of the principles of distinction, proportionality and precaution, and may have used starvation as a method of warfare, acts that may amount to war crimes,” it said.
“Both countries reaffirm their keenness to preserve the Yemeni state and the interests, security, stability, independence and territorial integrity of the Yemeni people under the leadership of the legitimate president of Yemen, and to counter the coup of the Iranian-backed Houthi terrorist militia and other terrorist organizations,” the statement said.
Southern separatists seized two Yemeni government military bases near the southern port of Aden early on Tuesday, triggering fresh clashes between nominal allies that have complicated U.N. peace efforts, residents and officials said. The separatists and government are both part of a Saudi-led military coalition battling the Iran-aligned Houthi movement, which took over the capital Sanaa and most major cities in 2014. But the separatists broke with the government this month, seizing its temporary base of Aden on Aug. 10. On Tuesday, they took two government military bases in Zinjibar, around 60 km (40 miles) east of Aden in Abyan province, residents said. “What is happening in Abyan is an unjustified escalation by the Southern Transitional Council (STC – the separatists),” the Yemeni government foreign ministry said. On another front in the north, the Saudi-led coalition said it launched air strikes overnight on Houthi military targets in Sanaa. The coalition said on Tuesday that its air strikes on Sanaa struck caves storing missiles, drones and weapons. The assault appeared to be in response to Houthi attacks on energy assets in neighbouring Saudi Arabia on Saturday. The violence and cracks in the coalition could hamper United Nations efforts to push forward peace agreements and talks to end a war that has killed tens of thousands and driven the poorest Arabian Peninsula country to the brink of famine. The Western-backed, Sunni Muslim coalition intervened in Yemen in March 2015 against the Houthi movement that ousted the internationally recognised government of Abd-Rabbu Mansour
Southern Yemeni separatists withdrew on Saturday from some government buildings in Aden that they seized last week but held on to military camps that give them control over the southern port, interim seat of Yemen’s Saudi-backed government. The separatists’ takeover of Aden has strained a Saudi-led military coalition formed to confront the Iran-aligned Houthis as the movement stepped up attacks on the kingdom, hitting a Saudi oil installation on Saturday. A Houthi military spokesman said the group launched 10 drones on oil installations at Shaybah in eastern Saudi Arabia, describing it as the “biggest attack in the depths” of the kingdom and vowing further operations. State oil company Aramco said the attack caused a “limited fire” at a gas plant which had been contained and did not impact production. Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih condemned the strike as “cowardly” sabotage directed at global oil supplies. The Yemen conflict is widely seen in the region as a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and regional rival Shi’ite Muslim Iran. The Western-backed, Sunni Muslim coalition intervened in Yemen in March 2015 to try to restore the internationally recognised government of Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi after the Houthis ousted him from power in the capital Sanna in late 2014. The tensions have complicated United Nations efforts to implement a stalled peace deal in the main port city of Hodeidah, on Yemen’s west coast, and pave the way for political talks to end the war that has pushed the country to the brink of famine. Coalition warplanes
Yemen’s southern separatists vowed on Wednesday to keep control over Aden, warning the only way out of the impasse that has fractured a Saudi-led military alliance was for Islamists and northerners to be removed from all positions of power in the south. The separatists, who are supported by coalition member the United Arab Emirates, effectively took over Aden, the temporary seat of the Saudi-backed Yemeni government, over the weekend by seizing government military bases. The Western-backed, Sunni Muslim alliance intervened in Yemen in March 2015 against the Iran-aligned Houthi movement that ousted President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi from power in the capital Sanaa in late 2014. His government relocated to Aden. Southern fighters are a major component in the coalition’s battle against the Houthis. But the war has revived old strains between north and south Yemen – formerly separate countries that united into a single state in 1990 under then-President Ali Abdullah Saleh. The crisis has exposed a rift between Gulf allies Saudi Arabia and the UAE, which has echoed Riyadh’s call for dialogue among Aden’s warring parties but stopped short of asking the southern forces that it funds and arms to cede control. “Giving up control of Aden is not on the table at the moment,” Saleh Alnoud, British-based spokesman for the Southern Transitional Council (STC), told Reuters in an interview. “We are there to remain – but to remain for a positive reason: to maintain stability,” Alnoud said. He said the only way out of the stand-off was for
Yemen’s southern separatists have taken effective control of Aden, seat of the internationally recognised government, fracturing the Saudi-led coalition which is trying to break the grip of the Iran-aligned Houthi movement on the country. In a move that complicates efforts by the United Nations to end a four-year war, the separatists seized control of all government military camps in the southern port city on Saturday and surrounded the all-but empty presidential palace, officials said. “What is happening in the temporary (government) capital of Aden by the Southern Transitional Council is a coup against institutions of the internationally recognised government,” the foreign ministry said in a Twitter post. Although they have a rival agenda to President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi’s government on the future of Yemen, the separatists had been part of the Saudi-led pro-government coalition that has been battling the Houthis since March 2015. The war has killed tens of thousands and pushed the poorest Arabian Peninsula nation to the brink of famine. Four days of clashes between the separatists and government forces have killed at least nine civilians and more than 20 combatants, according to medical sources. The fighting, which has trapped civilians in their homes with dwindling supplies of water, resumed at dawn on Saturday but has since abated. “It is all over, the (Southern Transitional Council) forces are in control of all the military camps,” an official in Hadi’s government told Reuters. He said the two sides had agreed the separatist forces would not try to seize the
Attacks on Yemeni forces that form a core component of the Saudi-led military coalition in the south of the country risk further destabilising Aden, seat of the government, and complicating United Nations peace efforts. The Iran-aligned Houthi movement, which the alliance has been battling for more than four years, launched a missile attack on United Arab Emirates-backed Security Belt forces in the southern port city, a coalition stronghold, that killed 36 soldiers on Thursday. The strike on a military parade was the worst violence to hit Aden since southern separatists forces, including Security Belt units, clashed with the Saudi-backed government of Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi in 2017 in a power struggle. Analysts say the Houthis may be testing any weaknesses in the coalition following the UAE military drawdown in the south and western coast announced in June, which appears to have also emboldened Islamist militant groups in Yemen who carried out separate deadly attacks on southern forces last week. WHY IS ADEN SIGNIFICANT?The Houthis have stepped up missile and drone attacks on Saudi cities, but this is the first serious attack by the group on Aden since it was captured by the coalition in 2015. The Western-backed, Sunni Muslim alliance intervened in Yemen in 2015 against the Houthis after they ousted Hadi’s government from power in the capital Sanaa in late 2014. The Houthis, who hold most urban centres including Sanaa and the main port of Hodeidah, have no traction in the south, where the UAE has armed and trained some
The United Arab Emirates, one of the most powerful parties in Yemen’s war, has begun to draw down its forces, pulling out several thousand troops in a move that leaves the Saudi-led coalition there with a weakened ground presence and fewer tactical options. The UAE isn’t quitting Yemen or the coalition, which it and Saudi Arabia formed in 2015 to stem the advance of Iranian-allied Shiite rebels known as Houthis who took over the north. But the drawdown represents a major step away by the Emiratis from their partner Saudi Arabia’s main policy in the war — to batter the rebels into submission — a strategy that has largely been unsuccessful. The UAE says the reduction aims to boost negotiations with the Houthis to end the war. “Now is the time to double down on the political process,” Anwar Gargash, the UAE’s minister of state for foreign affairs, wrote in The Washington Post this week. The Houthis and internationally recognized government of Yemen, which is backed by the coalition, held talks last week for the first time in months on implementing a U.N.-brokered cease-fire in Hodeida, a rebel-held Red Sea port city that is the entry point for most humanitarian aid. The talks are crucial for opening the way to broader peace negotiations to end the five-year-old war. The war, sparked by the Houthis’ takeover of the capital in 2014, has claimed tens of thousands of lives, thrust millions to the brink of famine and spawned the world’s most devastating