UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres stated that world body could not verify that drones and missiles used to attack Saudi’s oil fields last September were from Iran, debunking the US intelligence assessment and Reuters investigation saying that Iran had planned the assault.
The US, European nations, and Saudi blamed Iran for the September 14 incident despite providing no supporting evidence. Tehran denied the alleged involvement in the raid, and Houthi rebels in Yemen claimed responsibility for the attack.
Guterres described the UN examined drones and missiles’ debris used in the Saudi oil facility in Afif in May, in the Abha international airport in June and August, and Saudi Aramco’s oil facilities in Abqaiq and Khurais in mid-September.
“At this time, it is unable to independently corroborate that the cruise missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles used in these attacks are of Iranian origin,” the Portuguese diplomat said in a statement as Reuters reported.
The UN report also added that there was no evidence that the Iran-backed Houthi rebels had types of drones utilized in the aggression in the Aramco refineries.
Previously, Reuters investigation revealed that Iran had planned the Aramco attack in May, approved by Iranian spiritual leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei under strict conditions: the raid did not target civilians or Americans.
However, Reuters could not verify and confirm its version of incidents with the Iranian leadership. Tehran maintained its innocent, and a Revolutionary Guards spokesman refused to give any comments.
What happened on September 14?
On September 14, drone attacks Saudi’s oil facilities in Abqaiq and Khurais, in the eastern part of the kingdom. Both oil fields are the largest oil fields controlled by Saudi oil giant Saudi Aramco.
Washington accused Iran of masterminding the attack despite the Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen’s responsibility for the incident. US President Donald Trump tweeted that there were several reasons to believe who the mastermind of the attack was (without mentioning Iran), adding that Washington was ready for war while waiting for Riyadh’s confirmation.
[We] are locked and loaded depending on verification, but are waiting to hear from the Kingdom [of Saudi Arabia] as to who they believe was the cause of this attack and under what terms we would proceed!,” tweeted the POTUS.
Saudi Arabia oil supply was attacked. There is reason to believe that we know the culprit, are locked and loaded depending on verification, but are waiting to hear from the Kingdom as to who they believe was the cause of this attack, and under what terms we would proceed!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 15, 2019
Three days after the attack, Saudi held a press conference aimed at presenting evidence of Iran’s involvement in the attack.
“Data recovered from the computers [on the UAV] shows it’s Iranian,” Defence Ministry spokesman Col Turki al-Malki as BBC quoted. However, he added that his side was still working the find out where the launch point was.
Iran snubbed the US and Saudi’s claim that Tehran was the mastermind of the assault.
The Americans adopted the ‘maximum pressure’ policy against Iran, which, due to its failure, is leaning towards ‘maximum lies,'” Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said.
The attack on Aramco refineries disrupted 5.7 million barrels per day of crude oil, said Saudi’s Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman. Also, the assault has intensified the US-Iran tension following Washington’s withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal or the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Actions).
Military experts were unsure of Iran’s role in the attack
Washington’s claim was based on intelligence images of the incident. However, military experts could not verify whether the drones were from Iran after examining those images.
Ret. Col. Cedric Leighton, an intelligence expert, specializing in imagery, told CNN that those images did not confirm anything as they did not show the exact location of the launch.
“This is the handiwork of a sophisticated (most likely State) actor. The precise nature of the intelligence used to conduct targeting, the mission planning that went into this to avoid radar detection, as well as the selection of the targets, shows a robust capability that would most likely be the work of a government or government-sponsored group, Leighton explained, adding that the drone are most likely either in Iran and Southern Iraq.
Ret.Gen Mark Hertling echoed the statement, saying that those portraits did not mean anything, adding “other than pretty good accuracy on the strike of the oil tanks”.
Any problems with Saudi’s defence?
Saudi Arabia is the world’s largest arms buyer, mostly from the US, therefore, some questions linger; if the attacks were from Iran, how could the sophisticated US radar system not detect two dozen missiles from Iran?
“It’s very hard to imagine a salvo of 17 shots from Iranian territory not being picked up via some land and sea radars,” a former US Navy with an extensive Middle East experience told Business Insider.
If the claim (that Iran was the culprit) were valid, it would humiliate Washington, given the fact that the U.S-backed sanctions have hit Iran after the U.S accused Iran of developing nuclear weapons.
Iran-aligned Houthi rebels, who are fighting the Saudi-led coalition in the Yemen war, claimed to be the attacker of the Saudi Aramco oil fields. Regardless of whoever launched the drones, the UN report shows that the mastermind of the attack is still debatable, and the conflicts in the Middle East show no signs of abating.