on Tuesday 2 March, 2021

Iranian-backed Houthis threaten to attack Aramco: 'Wider scope than 2019 attack'

The Houthis pointed to the “Safer oil fields”, as an example. It was not clear where this red line was or what specific infrastructure they don’t want targeted.

DEBRIS DOTS a Saudi Aramco oil company distribution station that Yemeni Houthis say they attacked, in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, on November 24. (photo credit: NAEL SHYOUKHI/REUTERS)
by : Jerusalem Post - SETH J. FRANTZMAN

The Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen, who released footage of their ballistic missiles targeting Riyadh over the weekend, have warned Saudi Arabia against escalating tensions in the western and northern front lines of Yemen.

They said they would strike at Saudi Aramco, the Saudi Arabian Oil Company, if the Saudis or UAE “fighters or supporters” commit “aggression” in certain areas.

The Houthis pointed to the “Safer oil fields” as an example. It was not clear where this redline was or what specific infrastructure they don’t want targeted.

Future Houthi attacks will go “far beyond the recent ‘fifth deterrence balance’ that they have achieved,” according to numerous reports by media outlets in Iran and others linked to the Houthis, an apparent warning to Riyadh.

The Houthis have targeted Aramco facilities over the past several years using drones and missiles. A massive Iranian attack on Saudi Arabia’s Abqaiq in September 2019 also targeted Aramco.

It appears the Safer reference is to an area that was once at the heart of the battle for Marib in 2015. Today, the Houthis are marching on Marib again.

The Biden administration has warned them against attacks on Riyadh and has urged them to stop the offensive. But the Biden administration also took them off its list of terrorist entities.

The Saudi-led coalition “began moving supplies to Marib in March, using land routes from Saudi Arabia through Hadramout and Shabwa provinces,” The National, a private English-language daily newspaper published in Abu Dhabi, reported in 2015. “Last month, coalition forces started flying more reinforcements to Marib using a small airport in the tiny town of Safer, 60 km. east of Marib city. Loyalist military sources said further reinforcements, including tanks, armored vehicles, rocket launchers and Apache helicopters, arrived last week.”

The area was a base for the “Safer Exploration and Production Operations Company and other foreign companies working in Yemen’s vital energy sector,” the report said. “The main gas pipeline south also runs through the town, which is controlled by the pro-Hadi military commander Abdullah Al Shaddadi. The nearest Houthi presence was in Baihan in Shabwa province, 50 km. away.”
Houthis at the time used a Tochka missile to kill 45 UAE troops, 10 Saudis and five Bahrainis from the coalition.

“It was by far the worst loss suffered by the coalition and one of the darkest days in the UAE’s history,” the report said.
Houthi spokesman Brig.-Gen. Yahya Sarei said any attack would be met with retaliation, such as the “airport-to-airport” equation against Riyadh attacks, Iran’s semi-official Fars News Agency reported.

“Informed sources said that Sanaa was determined to give a ‘painful response’ to any direct or indirect attack by Riyadh on the Safar oil fields, quoting Yemeni [Houthi] government officials as saying: ‘As long as Aramco – the backbone of the Saudi economy – If we do not disable it, we will not rest [sic].’” Fars reported.

The Houthis say they are in the midst of their latest operations against Saudi Arabia and a large-scale offensive in Marib. The report quotes Mujib Shamsan telling Al-Akhbar: “The most important message is to warn the Saudi regime not to think of attacking Ma’rib oil structures... Therefore, if the Safar oil sectors are targeted by Saudi or Riyadh-based fighter jets, the Sanaa forces will also use ‘UAVs and missiles will bomb Saudi oil structures in a large-scale operation.’” He warned of another Abqaiq-style attack.

That attack was carried out by Iran, showing how Houthi operations and Iranian operations are closely coordinated. The warning now is of a larger “scope” attack on Saudi Arabia. The Houthis claim they recently targeted five Saudi airports and “prompted the Saudi airlines to delay dozens of flights.”

The warnings hint at potential for a major escalation.