Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Alleged Missile Attack on Riyadh Should Concern Shipping Lines in Gulf Region

Military Tensions Rising Rapidly with Strike on Riyadh
Shipping News Feature
SAUDI ARABIA – IRAN – YEMEN – The ongoing conflict between the Gulf Arabs and Iran via the latter’s Yemeni Houthi tribesmen proxy has shown a marked escalation recently that shipping lines and oil companies will be watching with great trepidation. We reported in October how the Houthis have used sophisticated weaponry to attack naval vessels belonging to the UAE and the United States Navy. This week has seen two events that mark a new standard in both the Houthi’s determination to attack vessels at sea and an alarming increase in the levels of technology that they can now bring to bear.

On 30 January Houthi forces used an explosive laden skiff to launch a suicide attack upon the Saudi frigate al-Madinah, killing two sailors and injuring three more. Though the vessel safely made port, the attack represented a new determination on the part of the Houthi’s to attack vessels off the coast of Yemen which are running a blockade of the region in an attempt to impede supplies and weapons reaching the native Yemeni’s, who are fighting a savage war against a Saudi-led coalition in their country.

The attack, combined with a recent ballistic missile test by Iran, led to President Trump stating that Iran ‘had been put on notice’. Now it seems that Iran may have made its answer.

According to reports, on the night of February 5 Houthi forces launched a missile, suspected to be a modified SCUD type, at the Saudi capital of Riyadh. Although details are sparse, Houthi propaganda states that the target was a military base 25 miles from the city. Saudi sources have yet to officially confirm any news on the event, but the city has apparently been put on alert and there are some reports on social media of an explosion.

Though similar missiles have been launched by the Houthis on earlier occasions, this attack, if genuine, reached over 500 miles into the heart of Saudi Arabia and, according to the aggressors, landed exactly as targeted. With the two-year old war in Yemen causing issues on the home front as well as controversy with foreign allies and suppliers about the use of weapons on civilians, the attack represents yet another psychological blow to the Saudis.

The real issue is how America may react in the event of such an attack. Though the Iranians deny any link to the Houthis the reality is that they are critical to the tribesmen and this attack demonstrates the high level of technical assistance that outside parties are contributing to the Houthi war effort. With Saudi Arabia now directly under attack, and America, and more specifically President Trump, looking increasingly fed up with Iran’s role, an escalation in the conflict involving the US is a distinct and increasing possibility. If so the Straits of Hormuz, the most critical trade artery on the planet, may once again become a shooting gallery.

Photo: – A frame from a video from the al-Madinah showing the white wash from the suicide boat entering the frame from the right hand side just before striking the ship.