Opinion

From Tokyo to Toronto: Why attacking Saudi Aramco affects the whole world

From Tokyo to Toronto: Why attacking Saudi Aramco affects the whole world

Author

I write this column from Tokyo, where I am a guest of the G1 Institute at its annual international conference. On the eve of the conference, I met a number of participants, high-level Japanese officials and business executives, and they all expressed grave concern for, and total sympathy with, Saudi Arabia following the attacks on the Kingdom’s oil facilities.

Japan is a net importer of oil. It gets nearly 85 percent of its oil from Gulf Cooperation Council members. A staggering 40 percent of its oil comes from Saudi Arabia, so it is no wonder that in the eyes of the Japanese, the attack impinges on their country’s national security, and is felt and seen as such.

The dreadful attack comes as Japan deals with the aftermath of typhoon Faxai. A week after it ripped through Chiba, there are still about 430,000 households living without power, so the last thing this thriving country needs is yet another disruption in its energy supply.

As such, an unhindered and uninterrupted production of oil, and its safe passage through the Strait of Hormuz, is an absolute necessity for Japan’s continued growth.

The full force of the attack on Saudi Arabia’s oil facilities does not just affect Japan. It affects the whole world — and the whole world needs to recognize that fact.

The world must stand together in condemning the attacks, and take serious steps to prevent rogue countries and violent militias from hijacking our ability and our right to live normal and peaceful lives.

Faisal J. Abbas

A statement from Saudi Aramco on Saturday said the attacks would see a production suspension of 5.7 million barrels of crude oil per day. That amount represents about half of the Kingdom’s output, which is some 6 percent of the global oil supply — removing that quantity from the market, even for a short time, will have serious repercussions.

While many countries expressed solidarity with Saudi Arabia, it is unfortunate that such a dramatic event did not garner enough of the right kind of attention in the international media. The perpetrators were not challenged as they should have been, and certainly not as they deserved to be.

This may partly be due to ignorance, but we cannot discount that fault-finding and dislike of Saudi Arabia is the new norm in much of the Western media. Outlets and publications are quick to portray Riyadh in a negative — and mostly inaccurate — light.

Many may think that because Saudi Arabia is rich, they need not worry about what happens there. Worse, they may feel that because of its riches it deserves what has happened to it. These people forget the country is the land of the Two Holy Mosques, and sacred to the world’s Muslims.

We have seen similar apathy and a lack of concern and outrage when the Houthis attacked sites near the holy city of Makkah. People forget that in a region consumed by hatred and sectarian differences, it is Saudi Arabia which is leading the fight against terrorism. It is Saudi Arabia which has kept oil prices in check and the oil market stable through continued supply. It is Saudi Arabia which has ushered in reforms in order to become a modern nation. It is Saudi Arabia which has helped prevent many terror attacks on Western soil, and it is Saudi Arabia which has worked, sometimes to its own disadvantage, to maintain the free flow of oil to countries around the world.

It is unfortunate that people do not understand that when such an attack happens, the victims go far beyond the oil companies and the Saudi people, to include babies in incubators in hospitals and children in schools all around the globe. Imagine the consequences if the world’s biggest oil producer were forced to stop producing because of such attacks. Millions of innocent people would suffer. Their daily lives would be affected. If the price of oil shoots up, it is the ordinary men and women at the pumps in the US, Europe, and Asia who will bear the consequences. It is, therefore, a direct attack on all peace-loving people, their ways of life, their economic security and well-being.

The world must stand together in condemning the attacks, and take serious steps to prevent rogue countries and violent militias from hijacking our ability and our right to live normal and peaceful lives.

• Faisal J. Abbas is the Editor-in-chief of Arab News

Twitter: @FaisalJAbbas

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Arab News' point-of-view

The shadowy forces attacking civilian targets in Saudi Arabia

The two-pronged attack on oil-production facilities in Abqaiq and Khurais in the Eastern Province was the biggest on oil infrastructure since Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990. (AFP)
Updated 16 September 2019

The shadowy forces attacking civilian targets in Saudi Arabia

  • Saturday's coordinated attack on Saudi Aramco oil installations marks a sharp escalation
  • Targets have included Makkah, airports, pipelines, desalination plants and oil facilities

ABU DHABI: When drones targeted the facilities of Saudi Aramco on Saturday, they signaled not only a new phase of a terror campaign against Saudi Arabia but also the determination of malign regional actors to disrupt global oil supplies, cripple energy-reliant economies and stir Middle East tensions.
The two-pronged attack on oil-production facilities in Abqaiq and Khurais in the Eastern Province was the biggest on oil infrastructure since Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990.
Responsibility for scores of attacks on civilian targets in Saudi Arabia involving rockets, drones and ballistic missiles has been claimed by Iran-backed Houthi militias since 2015. Saudi forces are part of a military coalition fighting the Houthis in Yemen.
The targets have included the holy city of Makkah, airports, royal residences, oil pipelines, desalination plants and oilfields.
A number of tankers in busy oil lanes have also been subjected to mysterious sabotage attacks involving mines, while commercial vessels have been harassed or seized by Iranian security forces.

Opinion

This section contains relevant reference points, placed in (Opinion field)

Experts say world leaders need to close ranks to put an end to the undeclared war of aggression and bring the faceless perpetrators to heel.
Yossi Mekelberg, a professor of international relations at Regent’s University London, says the attacks on vital installations represent a “really dangerous development” that Saudi Arabia and the wider world cannot afford to “sit back and let happen.”
“This is provocation, plain and simple,” he told Arab News. “This is a very serious escalation as it was an attack designed to cause major harm. Whoever did this knew it was provocation — and that a reaction is also guaranteed.
“Saudi Arabia will not be able to sit back and just let attacks like this happen. Attacks of this kind threaten a country’s economy, its sovereignty, its integrity — however you look at it.”
The Houthis said they carried out Saturday’s attacks with the help of 10 drones. But Mike Pompeo, US secretary of state, suggested the projectiles may have been launched from another country. Along with Yemen, Iran has proxy forces in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon — a policy that has long been blamed for causing instability in the region.
“Amid all the calls for de-escalation, Iran has now launched an unprecedented attack on the world’s energy supply,” Pompeo said on Twitter. “There is no evidence the attacks came from Yemen.”
The Arab coalition fighting to restore Yemen’s internationally recognized government said it was investigating who was behind the attacks.
According to Jim Hanson, president of the Security Studies Group, “the attacks were likely to have been launched from Iraq and done by Hashd Al-Shaabi militias in cooperation with their Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) handlers.”
He said: “The distance from Houthi territory in Yemen is likely too far for the strikes to have come from there. The US should coordinate with Saudi Arabia to ensure the most effective response. Talk alone is not enough; this calls for action.”
However, Iraq’s prime minister has denied reports that Iraqi territory “was used for drone attacks on Saudi oil facilities.”
In a statement issued on Sunday, Adel Abdul-Mahdi said: “Iraq is constitutionally committed to preventing any use of its soil to attack its neighbors. “The Iraqi government will be extremely firm with whoever tries to violate the constitution.”

Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman, Saudi Arabia’s energy minister, said Saturday's incidents caused an interruption of an estimated 5.7 million barrels per day (bpd) of crude oil - or about half of the Kingdom's oil capacity, equivalent to five percent of the daily global oil supply. He confirmed there were no injuries to staff at the locations targeted.
According to Saudi Aramco, the Abqaiq facility is the largest crude oil stabilization plant in the world which processes more than seven million bpd of crude. The plant plays a vital role in removing sulphur impurities and reducing vapor pressure of the crude in order to make it safe for being transported by tankers.
The damage also led to the knockout of the production of two billion cubic feet of associated gas daily, used to produce 700,000 barrels of natural gas liquids.
A Refinitiv media advisory said "with the global demand forecasts being revised downwards on the back of trade wars and economic downturn, the impact on prices is expected to be limited unless further clarity on the extent of damage indicates a significant impact on Saudi Arabia’s production and exports."
Commenting on the chances of a recurrence of such attacks, Mekelberg said: “If they do happen again, then the implication for the Gulf is huge. It could lead to great escalation and even war in the Gulf although I do not think this is something anyone wants.
“They will lead to not only Saudi Arabia but other countries, such as the US, to react.”
Moving forward, Mekelberg said, “We need to go back and look at all the issues in the region — and try and solve them diplomatically. We have to try and prevent further violence — before things get out of hand.”


Saudi minister hails ‘special relationship’ with Japan

Updated 22 October 2019

Saudi minister hails ‘special relationship’ with Japan

  • “We share common values,” said Majid Al-Qasabi

TOKYO: Saudi Arabia has a “special relationship” with Japan, which is “reliable strategic partner and friend” of the Kingdom, the Saudi Minister for Commerce and Investment Majid Al-Qasabi said on Monday.

The minister was speaking at the launch in Tokyo of the Japanese-language online edition of Arab News, in the latest stage of its global expansion. The event came on the eve of Tuesday’s ceremonial enthronement of Emperor Naruhito in the Japanese capital. “This is a great opportunity, a moment in history,” Al-Qasabi said.

The news website, published in Japanese and English, will focus on enabling the exchange of information between Japan and the Arab world in business, current affairs, and arts and culture. “It will be good to have news in Japanese so many Japanese can read about the Arab world,” Japan’s Defense Minister Taro Kono said at the launch.

Common values

“We share common values, we have a high respect for the elders and we think that the family is very important … to me we are friends and I think we need to work together.

“In order to do that we need to know what people in the Middle East are actually thinking, what is happening on a daily basis, and we haven’t got the source for that — but now Arab News is in Japan.

“This is a very good means to exchange information between the Middle East and Japan, so I am very much looking forward to it.”