On 14th September, a massive oil processing plant in Saudi Arabia was hit by a series of explosions launched by air, and images released by US commercial satellites reveal at least 17 points that have been impacted by the blasts.
Foreign observers reveal that the perpetrators of the attack singled out key equipment that would be challenging to replace, and oil storage tanks that would contain flammable materials. Reports suggest that 18 drones and seven cruise missiles were fired, and Yemen’s Houthi rebels have claimed responsibility for the attacks.
The attack on Saudi oil facility has led to a reduction of 6% percent of oil supply from the KSA sending prices of oil sky high around the world by 20%.
Saudi Arabia and its western allies are adamant to blame Iran, however, Tehran has denied any involvement, and warned that it would retaliate against any attack targeting its soil. This attack has created a tense situation across the regional neighborhood, putting Pakistan in a precarious position as its neighbor Iran and its long-time cooperative partner Saudi Arabia head deeper into discord.
Met with #Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman today to discuss the unprecedented attacks against Saudi Arabia’s oil infrastructure. The U.S. stands with #SaudiArabia and supports its right to defend itself. The Iranian regime’s threatening behavior will not be tolerated.
— Secretary Pompeo (@SecPompeo) September 18, 2019
Global Village Space reached out to Jan Achakzai, senior geopolitical analyst to explain the dynamics of the recent attacks, and how they will reflect on Pakistan.
Examining the Strategic Cost
Jan Achakzai, the Chairman of the Center for Geo-Politics and Balochistan, explained that Pakistan is a strategic partner of Saudi Arabia, but it also needs to balance its ties with Iran.
He said, “Pakistan being a strategic partner and penciling the territorial integrity of Saudi Arabia has to be directly involved in shoring up defenses of Saudi Arabia in some form and shape hence by default taking a side and possibly offending Iranian sensibilities.”
“Yes, it has to make good on its security guarantees to the KSA, but Islamabad also has to balance its ties with Iran as a neighboring country; already it’s long eastern and western borders are on the boil, Pakistan does not want to see another 800 km plus border with Iran destabilized.”
Explaining the predicament for Pakistan, Achakzai said, “Since Islamabad also cannot back out on its security and strategic partnership with the KSA and may even require to cooperate, say in Intel sharing and (God forbid, provision of use of its air space for any possible attack on Iran— remember, any attack will likely be involving missile use and aerial bombardment—Islamabad may be viewed as undermining Iranian interests.”
BREAKING: Trump admin. is weighing a range of options for a retaliatory action against Iran, including a cyberattack or physical strike on Iranian oil facilities or Revolutionary Guard assets, US officials and others briefed tell @NBCNews. https://t.co/lZPths5co1
— NBC News (@NBCNews) September 17, 2019
Outlining the repercussions for Islamabad if it somehow crosses Tehran’s “red line”, the Baloch analyst observed, “In such an eventuality, If Pakistan somehow crosses what Iran believes its red line, Tehran may angrily react and focus on Pakistan as subject of its grey warfare, proxy backlash undermining its national security.”
He added, “Anyhow, with Afghanistan on the boil, the last thing Islamabad wants is another war in its backyard in the case of oil facility attack snow boiling into full-scale hostilities between Iran and Saudi Arabia.”
Underlining the economic cost Pakistan has to bear due to the attack on a Saudi oil facility, Achakzai said, “The attack on Saudi oil facility has led to a reduction of 6% percent of oil supply from the KSA sending prices of oil sky high around the world by 20%. Pakistan has to adjust the spike in the international market at its petrol pumps further increasing inflation for consumers.”
He added, “Now imagine the economic consequence for Islamabad, if the KSA and Iran embroil in full-scale war after the KSA musters a coalition of the willing to go on punishing Iran: Since almost 60 percent of world oil crosses through Strait of Hormuz, oil supply will be interrupted sending prices of oil sky-high.”
The Baloch analyst continued, “Spiked prices of oil will send the economy into a tailspin: inflation will rise, growth prospects will diminish for foreseeable future; the economy’s KSA will also suffer culminating in the expulsion of Pakistani expatriates and drying up of nearly $10 billion remittances-lifeline for Pakistan’s forex reserves. If vanished in thin air, this loss of remittances will make Pakistan simply bankrupt.”
Explaining the dynamics of a refugee exodus in the instance Saudi Arabia and the US join forces to avenge the attack, Achakzai said, “Refugees exodus: in case of the US and the KSA deciding to avenge breach of Saudi Arabia’s sovereignty (i.e. attack on its oil facility) culminating in larger conflict, Pakistan cannot close its border on Iranian refugees who will flock to Balochistan and also almost 4 million Pakistani workers who have to return from Saudi Arabia, (in case of war).”
The Baloch analyst concluded, “Stakes for Pakistan is very much high and the best diplomatic course for Islamabad is to calm things and help deescalate.”