Riyadh accuses Tehran over oil installation attacks, joins US-led maritime mission

Saudi joins to back "regional and international efforts" to "counter the threats to maritime navigation". Saudis claim 18 drones and at least seven cruise missiles were involved in the attack, excluding Yemen as the place of launch. Growing tensions are pushing China to diversify its oil supplies.

Riyadh (AsiaNews/Agencies) – A few days after the attack on Saudi oil refineries, Saudi Arabia blamed Iran despite claims by Houthi rebels in Yemen that they were behind it.

As a result, the Saudi kingdom joined the International Maritime Security Construct, an initiative recently promoted by the United States to "protect" freedom of navigation and trade in the Gulf, the Strait of Hormuz, the Bab el Mandab Strait and the Oman Sea.

The official Saudi press agency issued a statement noting that the kingdom had joined the maritime mission, which includes Australia, Bahrain and the United Kingdom as well as the United States.

“The kingdom’s accession to this international alliance comes in support of regional and international efforts to deter and counter threats to maritime navigation and global trade in order to ensure global energy security and the continued flow of energy supplies to the global economy and contribute to maintain the international peace and security,” the news agency statement said.

Riyadh, backed by Washington, blames Tehran for the attacks on 14 September. Saudi Arabia's Defence Ministry exhibited what it says is wreckage of drones and cruise missiles proving Iranian involvement.

For Ministry spokesman Col Turki al-Malki, the evidence shows the attacks were launched from the north and were “unquestionably sponsored by Iran”. He noted 18 drones and seven cruise missiles were fired from a direction that ruled out Yemen as a source.

Yemen's Iran-aligned Houthi rebels have said they were behind the attacks. Iran instead has denied any involvement and warned it would retaliate against any attack that targeted it.

After arriving in Saudi Arabia on Wednesday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo described the attack an "act of war".

For his part, President Donald Trump said the US had "many options" that it could use to respond to the attack. Noting that it would be "very easy" to get into military conflict, he nevertheless suggested other lessons from the Middle East proved it then became difficult.

Some are developing plans with a goal of a head-on collision with Iran, after accusing the Islamic Republic of fuelling conflicts and destabilising the region with its weapons.

Saudi Arabia itself remains the world's leading importer of weapons, signing contracts worth US billion with the Trump administration, as noted by SIPRI.

In Europe, government are trying to gather more information on what has happened. In the United Kingdom, British arms sale to Saudi Arabia have come under the scrutiny of British courts.

Concerned about oil supplies for its own economy, China is looking for alternative suppliers. Although its imports from Saudi Arabia in July were at a two-year high at 1.8 million barrels a day, up from 663,000 the same month a year ago, Beijing is looking at Iraq and Latin America, including Brazil, Venezuela and Colombia, as well as the North Sea.