Saudi Arabia's call to the international community to pressure Tehran following the drone attacks on Sept. 14 on Saudi Aramco's oil infrastructure is not to restrict Iran’s economy but its military power in the Middle East, according to an expert on Iran from the Brussels-based Crisis Group.
"I think the message the crown prince [of Saudi Arabia] is trying to convey is that the 14 September attacks were an Iranian provocation that, because of its targeting of critical Saudi oil infrastructure, requires an international response and burden-sharing in defense of energy security," Naysan Rafati said.
He argued that such a response would broaden the base of support against Tehran and, as a consequence, attempt to dissuade Iran or the Houthis, whom the Saudis regard as an Iranian proxy, from following up with additional operations.
Some authorities received the remarks of Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud on Sept. 29 that a political and peaceful solution is “much better than the military one” as a green light to negotiations with Iran.
However, Rafati disagreed. "I don’t think Salman gave a green light to negotiations because Saudi officials have also reiterated in recent days that the Kingdom did not and will not talk with the Iranians," he said.
The expert explained that the Saudis have been investigating the Sept. 14 attack, including inviting UN experts, but they already confirmed that the weapons used in the drone attacks were Iranian in origin. Consequently, they formed the assertion that it would add to their case against Tehran with Iran being the launching site.
"I'd also expect continued discussions with the U.S. and other Gulf states on bolstering maritime security plans and beefing up Saudi defensive capabilities, with the U.S. already having announced additional troops as well as radar and Patriot units to the Kingdom with additional resources on standby - and hope that in parallel there are conversations underway aimed at de-escalating the situation as well," he said.
Prof. Oktay Tanrisever, an academic member of the international relations department of the Middle East Technical University, told Anadolu Agency that the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia’s appeal to take action failed to boost oil prices.
Tanrisever argued that it was rather the rise in the physical tension in the Gulf region rather than the Crown Prince’s comments that impacted oil market dynamics.
In an interview on Sept. 29, the Crown Prince issued a warning of the consequences of not taking action against Iran.
“If the world does not take strong and firm action to deter Iran, we will see further escalations that will threaten the world’s interests,” he said.
“Oil supplies will be disrupted and oil prices will jump to unimaginably high numbers that we haven’t seen in our lifetimes,” he cautioned.
Tanrisever said the price of energy as a critical global resource correlates with the political environment and tension in the source countries.
“The effect of the recent tensions in the Gulf is inevitable on global oil prices. The tension between Iran and Saudi Arabia increases the risk for energy supplies and transportation, especially for Asian countries,” he said.
He advised that international organizations and power groups strengthen the security of transportation routes between critical energy production and consumption points by focusing more on diplomatic initiatives.
Drones hit two Aramco units in the north of Saudi Arabia in an attack claimed by Houthi rebels in Yemen on Sept. 14. The attacks crippled 5.7 million barrels of daily production, corresponding to around 60% of Saudi output.
Due to the disruption in the world's largest crude exporter's output, oil prices jumped by as much as 20% on the global market. International benchmark Brent crude reached as high as $71.62 per barrel during early trading hours on Sept. 14 - its highest level since May 22.
Western countries, including the U.S., the U.K., Germany and France also blamed Iran for the attacks on the Saudi infrastructure. However, Iran denied the claims and said Houthis in Yemen, which took responsibility for the attacks, have the right to defend themselves against Saudi presence in the country.
Saudi Arabia announced that they joined an international maritime coalition with the U.S. to provide safe navigation to ships in the Strait of Hormuz, Bab al-Mandab, Sea of Oman and Gulf of Arabia amid heightened tensions with Iran. On Sept. 19, the U.S. defense ministry announced that they would send Patriot defense systems, radars and 200 personnel to the region to protect Saudi Arabia.
Iran's oil minister on Sunday, Oct. 6 called for greater vigilance against both physical and cyber threats on the country's oil assets following reports of a Sept. 21 cyberattack on Iran's petrochemical facilities on Sept. 29.
By Talha Yavuz and Busranur Begcecanli