Armed drones attack oil pumping stations in Saudi Arabia

Armed drones attack oil pumping stations in Saudi Arabia

"Gulf officials have characterized the damage to the tankers as sabotage".

A team of USA military experts, performing an initial examination of the damage inflicted Sunday on four ships anchored off Fujairah, one of the United Arab Emirates' seven principalities, tentatively concluded that Tehran was responsible, the Associated Press reported on Monday. "However, Iran's default option for 40 years has been violence, and we are ready to defend USA personnel and interests in the region". Visiting Delhi Tuesday, Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif was questioned on the USA military deployments in the Gulf region.

"If you are anxious about a new war in the Middle East, you are in good company", tweeted Joe Cirincione, president of the Ploughshares Fund.

But aside from that, there is the risk of rising tensions in the region.

The precise nature of the incident remained unclear.

Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih said Aramco had halted pumping on the East-West pipeline until the damage was evaluated, but that production and exports were continuing without disruption. A boom surrounded the Emirati oil tanker A. Michel, indicating the possibility of an oil leak. The broadcast only showed one side of the ship, which bore no signs of damage, describing it as the closest one to shore in Fujairah. Since 2017 reports have indicated that Houthi drones are Iranian-made or based on Iranian designed.

The official said each ship has a 5- to 10-foot hole in it, near or just below the water line, and the team's early belief is that the holes were caused by explosive charges. In response, lawmakers in Tehran declared USA troops terrorists and called the US a state sponsor of terrorism. Officials stopped AP journalists from traveling by boat to see the ships.

A Reuters witness said divers were inspecting the ships.

The incident happened 140km south of the Strait of Hormuz, where about one-third of all oil traded by sea passes through.

A senior source at Saudi Arabia's ministry of energy told CNN that the attacks were particularly alarming because the tankers were targeted outside the Strait of Hormuz.

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Gambhir wrote on Twitter, "I abhor your act of outraging a woman's modesty @ ArvindKejriwal and that too your own colleague. Mr Gambhir also pledged to quit politics, even if it meant resigning the day he won the election, if AAP proved its charge.

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Falih said the attack aimed to undermine maritime freedom and the security of oil supplies.

The kingdom's Foreign Ministry on Monday condemned the incident as a "criminal act" threatening the "safety of maritime traffic, which reflects negatively on regional and worldwide peace and security", according to the state-run Saudi Press Agency.

Oil prices initially spiked in response to news of the attacks, but were largely flat in trading on Tuesday.

In a tweet, Emirati Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash said investigations in the incident were ongoing but that the government had its "own readings and conclusions". Citing heightened tensions in the region, the United Nations called on "all concerned parties to exercise restraint for the sake of regional peace, including by ensuring maritime security" and freedom of navigation, U.N. deputy spokesman Farhan Haq said.

Oil prices rose by almost 2% at one point on Monday in the wake of the Saudi claims of sabotage. "And if we did that, we'd send a hell of a lot more troops than that", Trump told reporters at the White House.

The New York Times reported late on Monday that the Trump administration is reviewing updated military plans for dealing with Iran should Iran attack USA forces or ramp up its nuclear weapons program. Last week, Iran warned it would begin enriching uranium at higher levels in 60 days if world powers failed to negotiate new terms for the deal. They would also like Iran to stay in the Iran nuclear deal so that they never acquire a nuclear weapon.

In the face of growing global concern, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo scrapped a planned visit to Moscow and headed to Brussels instead for talks Monday with European officials, as Britain warned of the danger of conflict erupting "by accident" in the Gulf. Hopefully we're not going to have to plan for that.

The Gulf Cooperation Council condemned the tanker sabotage on Monday as a "serious escalation" that could "increase tensions and conflict in the region and jeopardize the interests of their peoples".

"The kingdom condemns this cowardly attack".

European companies, however, are wary of secondary US sanctions if they trade with Iran, especially in oil, as the seeking to bring Iranian oil exports down to zero and ended all sanction waivers it had initially extended for six months.

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