A barrel of Brent crude was trading at a tad above $60 on Monday, at a sweet-spot level that isn’t unacceptable to either oil producers or consumers. But just two weeks ago, the price spiked up in a blink of an eye when it was hovering closer to $68 on September 16, a couple of days after seven cruise missiles and 18 drones struck Saudi Arabia’s key oil facilities, taking out 5 per cent of the world’s total crude supply. Yemen’s Houthi rebels were quick to claim responsibility for the attack that, according to the US, has Iran’s fingerprints all over it.
It wasn’t the first time that Houthis claimed to have fired drone missiles at Saudi targets, but this was the first time that the missiles damaged a target so deep in the kingdom. It was clearly a case of Houthis taking responsibility for the misdeeds of their puppet masters, and their claims of using home-made missiles for the attack had many obvious flaws. For one, the range of the strike far exceeded the established capacity of Houthi strike drones. Saudi Arabia did recover drone and missile wreckage that indubitably disproves the Houthi narrative. Either way, the fact remains that Tehran was behind the attacks, one way or another.
And moving beyond the missile mystery, it is clear that an attack on a key oil installation of one of the world’s largest oil exporters is meant to harm the fragile energy ecosystem and create chaos in the global economy. As Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has stated in an interview with CBS’ 60 Minutes news programme that was aired on Sunday, it was Iran’s “stupidity” behind the attacks. “There is no strategic goal,” he said of the attack. “Only a fool would attack 5 per cent of global supplies. The only strategic goal is to prove that they are stupid and that is what they did.” That said, it is clear that to protect global interests, the world must act today – and act decisively – to deter Iran so that the oil markets remain well-supplied and the region remains stable.