Drone strikes reshaping Middle East Politics

Md. Sharif Hasan
Published : 00:00, Sep 23, 2019 | Updated : 11:43, Sep 23, 2019

Md. Sharif HasanTwo oil facilities of Saudi Arabia got hit by drones recently. Immediately, Houthi rebels claimed responsibility for the attacks. But, the US administration has already pointed a finger at Iran saying it could respond militarily to the attack on Saudi Arabia's oil facilities. It's being described as an unprecedented attack on the world's energy supply. Iran has rejected US accusations suggesting it was responsible.
How is the market responding?
Currently, according to Brent crude, a barrel costs 67 dollars. It is 10 percent higher than the price prevailing before the attack. Saudi Arabian oil output now has been slashed by 5.7 million barrels a day. Analysts warn that it won’t be easy to make up that gap. It surpasses the loss of Kuwaiti and Iraqi supplies during the Gulf War in August 1990, and the hit to Iranian output in 1979 from the Islamic Revolution, according to the International Energy Agency.
The stock listing has been on again and off again. But, attacks like these will not help investors' confidence or bring in billions of dollars to diversify the Saudi economy. Saudi Aramco is no ordinary company. It’s the engine of Saudi Arabia’s economy and a source of power for its rulers. It’s also the crown jewel of the Saudi Crown Prince’s ambitious plans to diversify the economy as noted earlier. But, with seemingly expanding Houthi strike capabilities from the war in Yemen, this would give investors a moment to pause. Besides causing the physical damages, the Houthis also seem to have time. The attack occurred just as Saudi Aramco announced its intention to sell a part of the state oil company.
Evolution of Houthis: From AK-47 to drone capabilities
It also shows the gradual transformation of this really rudimentary force which we saw in 2015 which most people had not heard of, evolving into its present form ---- from having only AK-47 carrying men to people who are carrying out precise drone attacks which are difficult to repulse. They are very difficult to spot as well, as we have seen that in the field in the fight against IS. And, in other areas when these small drones are deployed, it is very difficult to spot them. even if you’re employing a missile defence shield they don’t produce a heat signature that you could trace. They’re so small that it is very difficult to stop them. It is an effective tool that the Houthi seem to have mastered and now they’re attacking Saudi facilities more and more, absolutely in the heart of Saudi production lines.
A boy is seen at the site of an airstrike launched by the Saudi-led coalition in Sanaa, Yemen, February 1, 2019. REUTERS/File PhotoTheir drone strikes and attacks on Saudi facilities have been getting more precise and long-range. Saturday’s attacks hit deep within the country proving the Houthis' ability to carry out increasingly sophisticated strikes. They have been getting more intense and they seem to be getting the desired results that they wanted. This is attacking the heart of Saudi Arabia’s financial machine. They have hit the Abqaiq oil facility which produces about seven million barrels of oil and can process seven million barrels of oil simultaneously a day.
It’s not a matter of the facilities. It’s more matter of national security. It’s really hard to shoot drones because drones fly on A low level. This is not the first time the oil facility has been targeted in this year. If we look back to May 2019, a strike occurred but caused very limited damage, unlike this one.
It has been a major blow and disruption to Saudi Arabia’s oil facility. As conventional air defences struggle against multiple small drones, some analysts see further aerial attacks on oil facilities as a possible game-changer in the conflict.
Md. Sharif Hasan teaches International Relations at the University of Rajshahi.

***The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the opinions and views of Bangla Tribune.