Iran just declared war against the United States and we’re just now realizing how vulnerable the West is…
Yesterday a small band of Islamic extremists called the Houthis took credit for an attack on Saudi Arabia that destroyed half of their oil production in less than ten minutes. Their somewhat catchy slogan and trademark is, “God is Greatest, Death to America, Death to Israel, Curse on the Jews, Victory to Islam”. With that slogan it isn’t hard to believe that the Houthis rebels are backed by the Iranians in their bid to oust the Saudi-backed Yemeni government. Regardless of their hatred for Saudi Arabia it is highly unlikely that the Houthis have the ability to attack oil production facilities near the Persian Gulf in Al Hofuf without the assistance of Iran. The most worrisome aspect of this attack is how simple it was and how defenseless Saudi Arabia is to similar attacks — the question the west should be asking is whether or not the United States and Saudi Arabia will respond militarily.
Iran has been a long time financial supporter of the Houthi rebels supplying the rebels with funds and arms. It is well known that the Houthis drone capability is as a result of a technology transfer agreement with Iran Aircraft Manufacturing Industries. The Qasef-1 drone is based on Iran’s Ababil-T and is manufactured using parts sourced from various Iranian and Asian suppliers. The Houthi drone uses GPS for autonomous flight and has a range of 150 miles carrying a 60 pound payload — usually high explosives. The Qasef-1 can fly at speeds of 200 mph, has a service ceiling of 10,000 ft, and the Houthi have built hundreds of them with a unit cost of $20,000.
Prior to this attack the Houthis rebels have used the Qasef-1 and Qasef-2K primarily to attack coalition operated MIM-104 Patriot surface-to-air missile systems near the border of Yemen. With just a few $20,000 drones the Houthi have been able to disable or destroy several of these $6 million missile systems — an amazingly effective asymmetrical attack capability. However, this attack on Saudi Arabia was very different. To successfully hit the oil production facilities near Al Hofuf the Houthis would need to have fired their Qasef-1 drones from naval vessels in the Persian Gulf and the Houthis have no such capability. See the map below:
The Saudi Aramco facility was hit by 17 precision guided drones. The Qasef-1 and Qasef-2K are only accurate within 75 feet and have a range of less than 150 miles. If you look at the satellite imagery immediately following the attack you’ll notice these are all precision strikes — each from the north — not from the south (Yemen) or the east (Persian Gulf). There is almost no way, even if the Houthis rebels were on naval vessels in the Persian Gulf they could have hit these 17 targets so precisely. See satellite imagery below:
The Kuwaiti government reported that the drones violated their airspace supporting the U.S. and Saudi claims that the attacks originated from Iraq. The flight path and accuracy of the attack is clear evidence that the attacks could not have been initiated by the Houthis. Their drones don’t have either the range or accuracy to have hit these targets — this was an attack conducted by Iran — plain and simple.
Given the origin, range, and accuracy the only drones capable of these attacks are operated by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard. In March, Iran demonstrated their capability by launching a massive fifty drone drill including copies of various U.S. designed drones such as the Sentinel and Predator. Combined with their ability to operate within Iraq this provides clear and convincing evidence that the IRGC carried out this attack in the name of the Houthis rebels.
What no one in the west is acknowledging is that we’re at war with Iran — whether we like it or not. The Islamic Republic of Iran has been developing their drone capability for the last two decades and we’re finally seeing its capability. The Islamic Revolutionary Guard was able to destroy 50% of Saudi Arabia’s oil capacity in less than ten minutes. When Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait he put approximately 3 million barrels of oil a day at risk. The Iranians just took out 6 million barrels a day in just a few minutes for less than a million dollars. In response the U.S. spent more than $60 billion to secure Kuwait’s oil production capabilities.
The damage caused by the attack will take several months to repair. If there are no other attacks the impact on oil prices will be minor as the Saudis will release their reserves just as President Trump will release our reserves. The problem is that we’re simply not able to stop these attacks from Iran without engaging in a kinetic war against the Islamic Republic. Will our governments simply try to ignore the threat from Iran in an attempt to avoid a conflict or will we take action — the questions are complex and the answers aren’t obvious.