(TMU Op-Ed) — Saudi Aramco’s Abqaiq refinery, the largest oil processing facility in the world, and the Khurais oil field were reportedly attacked by a barrage of cruise missiles and drone strikes on Saturday.
Not surprisingly, United States President Donald Trump warned that the U.S. is “locked and loaded” to respond to the attack, but insisted that he was still waiting to verify who was responsible. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo immediately rushed to blame Iran, even while Yemen’s Houthi rebels claimed responsibility for the attack. A Saudi military spokesman said the initial investigation suggests “Iranian weapons” were used.
Thx @the_Jeff_Jones f/ alerting to breaking news reported by @JavierBlas. US govt releases satellite pics showing direct hits on critical spheroids use to treat the crude. We think this is a mths fix, not days/weeks. Oil going up even higher. #OOTT https://t.co/Ds7XPLAauV
— Dan Tsubouchi (@Energy_Tidbits) September 15, 2019
On Sunday, the U.S. issued satellite images and cited intelligence as proof of Iran’s culpability. According to an unnamed U.S. official, Iran launched nearly a dozen cruise missiles and over 20 drones from its territory in order to carry out the attack.
However, some officials have contradicted this, stating instead that the attack likely came from Iran or Iraq.
If true, this is a whole different situation now. Raises stakes of response, culpability. Pompeo expected to release more evidence https://t.co/2giQ25ydki
— Joyce Karam (@Joyce_Karam) September 16, 2019
Iraq categorically denied any involvement after an anonymous Iraqi intelligence official told Middle East Eye that the strikes were launched from Iraqi territory and were in retaliation for Saudi-funded Israeli drone strikes in August on Iranian-trained forces in Syria.
While Iran has denied the accusations, the country has threatened that it is ready for war if need be.
One senior Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) commander even told Tasnim that “everybody should know that all American bases and their aircraft carriers in a distance of up to 2000km around Iran are within the range of our missiles.”
Understandably, this recent attack has sent a shockwave through the global oil markets, cutting oil supplies by five percent as global oil prices surged more than ever before.
According to the Joint Organizations Data Initiative, as of this time last year, Saudi Arabian oil production averaged 10.7 million barrels a day, of which 7.43 million were exported.
We must ask ourselves how—while under the watchful eye of the world’s leading military superpower—was it possible for the world’s largest oil processing facility to be targeted so heavily and in such dramatic fashion?
As stated by the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), “protecting Saudi Arabia and other Persian Gulf producers has been a cornerstone of U.S. foreign policy for decades” as “providing security for the oil-rich Persian Gulf region has been a U.S. priority since World War II.”
The Brookings Institution further argues that deterring Iran’s ability to encroach on Saudi oil fields is one of the main reasons for a continued American military presence in the region. To that end, the U.S. even provides Saudi terminals with sophisticated U.S.-made Hawk surface-to-air missiles.
According to an estimate by Securing America’s Future Energy (SAFE), the U.S. spends approximately $81 billion a year protecting oil supplies around the world. This calculation is allegedly on the conservative side, as it doesn’t include the full costs to “protect” oil fields in Iraq, for example.
This time last year, the U.S. president launched one of his infamous Twitter tirades in which he claimed the US was protecting countries in the Middle East all the while those same countries push for “higher and higher oil prices.” It is hard to imagine he could have meant anyone besides Saudi Arabia.
Bearing in mind that, not too long ago, the U.S. deployed 500 troops to the Kingdom for the first time since 2003 as a show of strength in Washington’s spat with Iran.
With so much support, even if the U.S. and Saudi Arabia were unable to deter or defend from such an attack, surely they would have at least have evidence of how it was perpetrated. And if that evidence does indeed exist, why was it not quickly presented in lieu of crying “Iran” (which is starting to sound a lot like crying “wolf”).
A handful of photos and anonymous statements are not going to cut it this time around.
Why is the U.S. government so sure that Iran was behind the attack and not the more likely culprit—the Houthi rebels who are currently locked in a brutal and deadly conflict with the Kingdom? After all, even the New York Times notes that Houthi drones have a range of nearly 1,000 miles, which give them the capability to strike Saudi territory.
In fact, the spokesman for the Houthi-allied Yemeni army, Brigadier General Yahya Saree recently told MintPress News, of a “new missile” and that vital targets within Saudi Arabia will be focused on.
MintPress reports that during a test, “Yemen’s Houthi-allied army launched a ballistic missile attack on a yet-unidentified military position in Saudi Arabia’s eastern Dammam province. The strike was the first time the Houthis or their allied forces stuck eastern Saudi Arabia, and the missile is reported to have traveled nearly 800 miles to reach its target. Dammam is a major oil export hub and houses several major companies including Saudi Aramco.”
According to Saree, the launching of the long-range ballistic missile was “a new and practical test of the Yemeni missile force.”
Notably, this attack appears to coincide with the inevitable departure of ruthless Iran-hawk John Bolton, and just three days before Israel’s election. If there was ever a time to ensure that the U.S. foreign policy establishment never takes off the table the threat of force against Iran, it would be now.
Iran: We didn't do it.
Yemen’s Houthis: We did it
US: Iran did it.
— Sven Henrich (@NorthmanTrader) September 16, 2019
This is not to say that Iran couldn’t have carried out the attack—it may very well have done so. But the evidence being pushing by U.S. mainstream media is lacking and, as stated previously, a handful of photos and anonymous claims are not sufficient.
After a maximum pressure campaign of crippling sanctions, constant threats of war and a handful of “mysterious” strikes targeting Iranian-backed forces in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, perhaps Iran really has had enough. Perhaps Iran has decided to take matters into its own hands and respond militarily against vital U.S. interests.
We cannot rule out the possibility, but until we know the truth it is best not to speculate, given how high the stakes are.
In the meantime, despite the presence of U.S. troops and intelligence on the ground, the media is again insisting that we must rely on anonymous statements from military officials to justify our militaristic conclusions.
Recent history tells us that this is probably not a good idea.
Dolphin Swims Through Louisiana Neighborhood in Aftermath of Hurricane Ida
A Louisiana family was shocked to find a dolphin swimming through their neighborhood in the aftermath of Hurricane Ida.
Amanda Huling and her family were assessing the damage to their neighborhood in Slidell, Louisiana, when they noticed the dolphin swimming through the inundated suburban landscape.
In video shot by Huling, the marine mammal’s dorsal fin can be seen emerging from the water.
“The dolphin was still there as of last night but I am in contact with an organization who is going to be rescuing it within the next few days if it is still there,” Huling told FOX 35.
Ida slammed into the coast of Louisiana this past weekend. The Category 4 hurricane ravaged the power grid of the region, plunging residents of New Orleans and upwards of 1 million homes and businesses in Louisiana and Mississippi into the dark for an indefinite period of time.
Officials have warned that the damage has been so extensive that it could take weeks to repair the power grid, reports Associated Press.
Also in Slidell, a 71-year-old man was attacked by an alligator over the weekend while he was in his flooded shed. The man went missing and is assumed dead, reports WDSU.
Internet users began growing weary last year about the steady stream of stories belonging to a “nature is healing” genre, as people stayed indoors and stories emerged about animals taking back their environs be it in the sea or in our suburbs.
However, these latest events are the surreal realities of a world in which extreme weather events are fast becoming the new normal – disrupting our lives in sometimes predictable, and occasionally shocking and surreal, ways.
Mom in LA Suburbs Fights Off Mountain Lion With Bare Hands, Rescues 5-Year-Old Son
A mother in Southern California is being hailed as a hero after rescuing her five-year-old son from an attacking mountain lion.
The little boy was playing outside his home in Calabasas, a city lying west of Los Angeles in the Santa Monica Mountains, when the large cat pounced on him.
The 65-pound (30 kg) mountain lion dragged the boy about 45 yards across the front lawn before the mother acted fast, running out and striking the creature with her bare hands and forcing it to free her son.
“The true hero of this story is his mom because she absolutely saved her son’s life,” California Department of Fish and Wildlife spokesman Captain Patrick Foy told Associated Press on Saturday.
“She ran out of the house and started punching and striking the mountain lion with her bare hands and got him off her son,” Foy added.
The boy sustained significant injuries to his head, neck and upper torso, but is now in stable condition at a hospital in Los Angeles, according to authorities.
The mountain lion was later located and killed by an officer with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, who found the big cat crouching in the bushes with its “ears back and hissing” at the officer shortly after he arrived at the property.
“Due to its behavior and proximity to the attack, the warden believed it was likely the attacking lion and to protect public safety shot and killed it on sight,” the wildlife department noted in its statement.
The mountain lion attack is the first such attack on a human in Los Angeles County since 1995, according to Fish and Wildlife.
The Santa Monica Mountains is a biodiverse region teeming with wildlife such as large raptors, mountain lions, bears, coyote, deer, lizards, and snakes. However, their numbers have rapidly faded in recent years, causing local wildlife authorities to find new ways to manage the region’s endemic species.
Video Shows Taliban Taking Joyride in Captured US Blackhawk Helicopter
The rapid fall of Kabul to the Taliban has resulted in a number of surreal sights – from footage of the Islamist group’s fighters exercising at a presidential gym to clips of combatants having a great time on bumper cars at the local fun park.
However, a new video of Taliban members seemingly testing their skills in the cockpit of a commandeered UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter shows the chilling extent to which U.S. wares have fallen into the hands of a group it spent trillions of dollars, and exhaustive resources, to stamp out.
In the new video, shared on Twitter, the front-line utility helicopter can be seen taxiing on the ground at Kandahar Airport in southeastern Afghanistan, moving along the tarmac. It is unclear who exactly was sitting in the cockpit, and the Black Hawk cannot be seen taking off or flying.
It is unlikely that the Taliban have any combatants who are sufficiently trained to fly a UH-60 Black Hawk.
The helicopter, which carries a $6 million price tag, is just a small part of the massive haul that fell into the militant group’s hands after the country’s central government seemingly evaporated on Aug. 14 amid the withdrawal of U.S. and coalition troops.
Some 200,000 firearms, 20,000 Humvees and hundreds of aircraft financed by Washington for the now-defunct Afghan Army are believed to be in the possession of the Taliban.
The firearms include M24 sniper rifles, M18 assault weapons, anti-tank missiles, automatic grenade launchers, rocket-propelled grenades and mortars.
Taliban fighters in the elite Badri 313 Brigade have been seen in propaganda images showing off in uniforms and wielding weaponry meant for the special forces units of the Afghan Army.
The U.S. is known to have purchased 42,000 light tactical vehicles, 9,000 medium tactical vehicles and over 22,000 Humvees between 2003 and 2016.
The White House remains unclear on how much weaponry has fallen into Taliban hands, with National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan admitting last week that the U.S. lacks a “clear picture of just how much missing $83 billion of military inventory” the group has.