Iran’s Strategic Game – The Attack on Saudi’s Oil Field

by | Sep 15, 2019 |

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This is critically important … Iran is testing the U.S. and world! – 

President Trump returned (from Bedminster, NJ) to the White House early in part to deal with the Iranian drone attack. This was an extremely important strategic situation which required him to return to the White House to receive critically important briefings and updates in the White House Situation Room. The Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen claimed the attack, saying that 10 drones had targeted the Saudi oil fields at Abqaiq and Khurais in Eastern Saudi Arabia. It should be understood that attacks of this scale, magnitude, and accuracy would represent a sudden and remarkable increase in Houthi capabilities⏤neither the United States nor myself is buying the claim. Note, the last time the Abqaid oil facilities were attacked was on February 24, 2006 by al-Qaeda terrorists.

As Secretary of State Mike Pompeo stated throughout the day, on Saturday, it is Iran that is responsible for the drone attacks on the vitally important oil production facilities in Saudi Arabia’s oil-rich Eastern Province. The initial impact caused Saudi Arabia to being forced to shut down to survey and assess the impact of the attacks. As a result, it was necessary reduce by half, its oil production on Saturday. The attacks crippled Saudi Arabia’s oil production, forcing output to fall to around half its regular 9.8 million barrels a day. The reduction to half equals approximately 5% of the world’s daily global oil supply. Energy analysts say they could have a significant impact on world oil prices. Which I will discuss the strategic impact later in this article. The main Saudi stock exchange plummeted 3% on opening on Sunday, before recovering. While the kingdom certainly has large reserves in storage to accommodate reductions for various reasons, this is extremely critical, as it was an intentional and deliberate attack. In fact, essentially, it was an “Act of War.”

Two weeks ago Iran sent a single drone that did minor damage. With this mission, it was not their plan to inflict damage. It was an intelligence probe to check and test the defense of the Saudi oil facilities. What they learned, there was no defense. With that intelligence in, on Saturday they sent 10 armed drones. As I noted in my articles a cutoff over 50% of Saudi production. Saudi Arabia will get the facility up in running at 100% within 2-to-3 weeks. I predict there is high likelihood a month from now Iran will re-attack sending perhaps 20 drones. Even if Saudi is able to do a miraculous job of setting up defenses quickly. If half, even 3-5 get through it will have a major physical and psychological impact on world markets. Let’s not forget and understand, Iran has been a rogue State since 1979. That will not change until the Ayatollahs are out of power.

Economically and financially, if another attack on Saudi’s oil infrastructure occurs again, it could have a critical impact on a large part for many countries particularly on those relying heavily on Iran, namely China. The impact on China’s economic situation could be horrific for that nation. 

Further, the fact that this attack is the result of a foreign government, Iran⏤using its surrogate insurgent forces operating in the neighboring country of Yemen, where a civil war has been ongoing for the last 4-years, is strategically significant for both the government of Saudi Arabia and the region. The Yemeni civil war is an ongoing conflict that began in 2015 between two factions: the Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi led Yemeni government and the Iranian-back Houthi armed movement, along with their supporters and allies. Economically and financially, if it occurs again, it could have a critical impact on a large part for many countries particularly on those relying heavily on Iran, namely China. The impact could be horrific.

Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps

Attack on the Saudi Oil Fields…compliments of the IRGC

Iran, as it always does, employed it’s established and trained, equipped surrogate insurgent rebel force, this time the Houthi rebels as a guise and deception, the Houthi’s to claim it conducted the attack using drones. The reality is this attack was conducted by Iran’s IRGC covert/clandestine forces officially known as the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. The IRGC is a branch of the Iranian Armed Forces, founded after the Iranian Revolution in 1979 by order of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. Whereas the Iranian Army defends Iranian borders and maintains internal order, the IRGC is intended to protect the country’s Islamic republic political system by protecting the Islamic system is preventing foreign interference as well as coups by the military or “deviant movements” and outside foreign governments or entities.

The IRGC have over 125,000 military personnel including ground, aerospace and naval forces. Its naval forces are now the primary forces tasked with operational control of the Persian Gulf. The IRGC runs Tehran’s ballistic-missile programs and its specialized Quds Force (special operations forces) has arranged weapons deliveries and advised pro-regime militias in Syria, Iraq and elsewhere in the region to include Hezbollah and the Houthi’s in Yemen. The U.S. under President Trump has already designated Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a foreign terrorist organization.

That said, we must understand, Iran and its IRGC force will likely conduct more attacks.

Note that there have been more than 200 drone attacks launched by Houthi rebels from Yemen into Saudi Arabia, and none have been as effective as Saturday’s attack, lending credence to those like myself who are fully knowledgeable of Iran’s and it’s IRGC force’s capacity and capability that the attack did not originate from Yemen. Further, in addition to that fact, Houthi attacks on Saudi territory have markedly escalated, coinciding with increasing U.S. pressure and imposed sanctions on Iran.

Iran’s effort is twofold;

  1. First, Tehran wants to draw the west into a war with them to propagandize its people and its sympathizers, and the lesser informed around the world, and blame the U.S., Israel, and other U.S. allies for attacking them. The effort to try and draw us in to a war was most noted by statements from Tehran on Sunday morning, with Iranian officials stating and making such threats; coming out and threatening U.S. bases following Secretary Pompeo’s blaming Tehran for the attack on the Saudi Oil Facilities. This was followed by the Commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps Aerospace Force saying; “Tehran has always been ready for ‘a full-fledged war’.”
  2. Secondly, at the same time, their strategy is to provide a distraction and deception to its citizens over the horrible economy, economic conditions, and financial situation Iran and Iranians are dealing with. Iran is in a world of hurt. Their economy is in dire straits because of the impact of U.S. imposed sanctions on the government. The sanctions are having a detrimental impact to its oil and gas production, trade, and massive financial consequences economically to sales.

Iran’s strategic position is this;

– If they can’t sell their petroleum products on the international market, neither can the Saudis and Gulf States.

– As a result, this is going to drive the price of oil to $140-$150 or more. China and other countries depend heavily on Iran for oil.

– In turn, this is going to cause havoc on China’s economy which is already under siege by Trump’s trade policy.

The attacks on Saudi Arabia’s energy-production system has thrust President Trump into a fierce foreign-policy crosswind. Some say it has come at a time when the President’s national security team is at its thinnest point in over a year. Probably not, that’s just a coincident as this was most likely planned for some time since this week’s events involving John Bolton.

With Iranian involvement widely suspected in Saturday’s attacks, the President faces new questions, primary by his opponents, about his Iran strategy, with a diminished set of tools available to escalate his “maximum pressure” campaign of sanctions targeting the country’s economy.

President Trump has supported Saudi Arabia’s leaders in their war against Iran-backed Houthi forces in Yemen, even as U.S. lawmakers have expressed concerns on the conflict and grown impatient with the Saudi government’s reactions and response. Saudi Arabia has been leading a military campaign to quash the Houthi rebels in Yemen since March 2015. The conflict is widely seen as a proxy war between the Saudis and Iran, which has been backing the Houthi insurgency.

The Trump administration primary effort and response has been through levied military threats against Iran, in an effort to rein in its nuclear programs and its hostile regional ambitions through violence. While some believe that President Trump is close to exhausting options for adding financial pressure on Iran, primarily because he already has imposed some of the most stringent sanctions ever on Iran’s oil industry⏤refused to extend oil waivers and threatened secondary sanctions on entities that fail to comply.

As I previously noted, Secretary Pompeo has been a steady and vocal advocate of the maximum pressure campaign since the U.S. withdrew from the nuclear deal with Iran and six world powers. With John Bolton gone Pompeo now stands to have more sway over foreign policy than at any time since becoming Secretary of State.

On Saturday, Mr. Pompeo delivered the first U.S. response to the attacks on Saudi’s oil output, blaming Iran and asserting while there was no direct open source evidence the strikes came from Yemen, contrary to claims made by the Houthis there⏤understand Pompeo has access to the full realm of the U.S. Intelligence Community. With that the Secretary stated on Twitter; “We call on all nations to publicly and unequivocally condemn ‘Iran’s’ attacks. The United States will work with our partners and allies to ensure that energy markets remain well supplied and Iran is held accountable for its aggression.”

At this time, it isn’t clear what further measures could be introduced to increase economic pressure on Iran that is now the ongoing work of Trump’s National Security teams. Certainly, the administration will further evaluate and assess its intelligence in tying Tehran to the attacks. Primarily, this will also be used in the U.S. effort to convince more European and other international allies to come around to Mr. Trump’s Iran strategy, despite longstanding opposition to his approach. Of course, to date the response from other signatories to the Iran nuclear deal was slow, with only the United Kingdom condemning the attack. This could change though over the next week and more so if Iran attempts to conduct follow-on attacks.

The White House on Sunday morning said that President Trump has many options on the table in terms of what he could respond to what the administration has described as Iran’s role in a crippling strike on Saudi Arabia’s oil production this weekend.

With that, in keeping with the Trump administration’s policy of declining to outline possible U.S. strategy and options to hostile provocations, declined to say what form of response or whether a retaliatory option is under consideration. However, the White House did leave open the door to a potential meeting between President Trump and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani next week in New York⏤certainly an opportunity that was a possibility before the attack in Saudi Arabia.

It was noted by White House Counselor KellyAnne Conway on Fox News Sunday that; “The President will always consider his options.” Asked if Trump would still sit down with Rouhani under current circumstances. “We’ve never committed to that meeting at the United Nations General Assembly. The President’s just said he’s looking at it.” She went on to further say; “When you attack Saudi Arabia … you’re not helping your case much.” Conway also downplayed the impact of likely disruptions to the global oil market by pointing to Trump’s efforts to develop domestic energy.

The President called Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman on Saturday to offer his support for the country’s self-defense

In a statement on behalf of President Trump and the White House; noted; “The United States strongly condemns today’s attack on critical energy infrastructure,” Deere said. “Violent actions against civilian areas and infrastructure vital to the global economy only deepen conflict and mistrust.” The US government “remains committed to ensuring global oil markets are stable and well supplied,” according to a White House spokesman.

We should understand that President Trump through his ever improving energy policy has made us less dependent on these foreign leaders and bad regimes for our energy supply. This President is leading the way to responsibly develop it. At times like these, we should be all thanking God for President Trump for making the U.S. energy independent and the world’s largest energy producer.

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Jim Waurishuk is a retired USAF Colonel, serving nearly 30-years as a career senior intelligence and political-military affairs officer and special mission intelligence officer with expertise in strategic intelligence, international strategic studies and policy, and asymmetric warfare. He served as a special mission intelligence officer assigned to multiple Joint Special Operations units and with the CIA’s Asymmetric Warfare Task Force and international and foreign advisory positions. He served as Deputy Director for Intelligence for U.S. Central Command (USCENTCOM) during the peak years of the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and the Global War on Terrorism.

Waurishuk is a former White House National Security Council staffer and a former Distinguished Senior Fellow with the Atlantic Council, Washington, D.C. He served as a senior advisor to the Commander U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) and served as Vice President of the Special Ops-OPSEC.

Currently, he is the Chairman of the Hillsborough County (FL) Republican Executive Committee and Party and serves on the Executive Board of the Republican Party of Florida.

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