Attacks over the weekend on two Saudi Arabian oil sites raise the “terrifying” prospect of Yemen getting sucked into a regional war, United Nations peace envoy to Yemen Martin Griffiths said Monday.
While Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthi rebel group has claimed responsibility for hitting the Saudi oil facilities, US officials have blamed Tehran and President Donald Trump has said Washington is “locked and loaded” for a potential response.
“At a minimum, this kind of action carries the risk of dragging Yemen into a regional conflagration,” Griffiths told the UN Security Council via a video-link on Monday.
“Because of one thing we can be certain, and that is that this very serious incident makes the chances of a regional conflict that much higher. With Yemen in some way linked. None of that is good for Yemen.”
Yemen’s Houthi rebel group claimed responsibility for the pre-dawn attacks on Saudi Aramco facilities on Saturday, which shut down more than 5 percent of global supply and sent oil prices surging up by 20 percent.
But US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo ruled out Yemeni involvement and accused Iran of leading the attacks, without offering any evidence. Tehran denied that claim, saying the allegations were meant to justify actions against it.
“This is frankly terrifying,” said Griffiths.
“It is not entirely clear who was behind the attack, but the fact that [the Houthis] claimed responsibility is bad enough. And whatever we will discover of the attack, it is a sure sign that Yemen seems to be moving even further away from the peace we all seek.”
The attacks have revived fears of an outbreak of fighting between Iranian and American forces in the Gulf and appear to have dashed prospects of talks between Trump and his Iranian counterpart, Hassan Rouhani, at the upcoming UN General Assembly.
Relations between Washington and Tehran were already tense due to a long-running row between the two governments over Iran’s nuclear program, which saw the US pull out of a 2015 multi-nation deal and impose crippling sanctions.
Washington’s new ambassador the UN, Kelly Craft, said the US was “standing firmly with our Saudi friends” following the strikes on facilities in Abqaiq and Khurais in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province.
“We must all be clear-eyed about this event – a direct assault on the world energy supply,” Craft told the diplomats in New York.
“Claims of responsibility have been made. But … there is no evidence that the attacks came from Yemen. Emerging information indicates that responsibility lies with Iran.”
Yemen’s Houthi rebels have been locked in a war with a Saudi-UAE-led coalition since 2015. The coalition seeks to restore President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi to power after he was driven out of the capital Sanaa by the Houthis.