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Legitimate target, daft war

Written By: - Date published: 10:04 am, September 16th, 2019 - 30 comments
Categories: australian politics, International, Russia, uncategorized, us politics, war - Tags: , , , ,

The war that Saudi Arabia and its allies has been waging against the Houthi side in the civil war in Yemen took a interesting turn yesterday. Houthi claimed an attack on Saudi oil processing facilities using drone strikes. It is likely to significantly reduce the output of the Saudi exports for a while as the specialised equipment will be hard to get off the shelf.

Regardless of the mouthing off of  Mike Pompeo, the current (and probably temporary 1) US Secretary of State – there currently appears to be no realistic evidence of Iranian direct involvement in this rather stupid proxy way. At least no more that there is evidence of the US supply of air weapons to Saudi Arabia with which to attach Yemeni targets in Houthi. 

He has claimed that “.. there is no evidence the attacks came from Yemen”. Conversely there is no hard evidence that it did not. The Houthi ‘government’ claimed that they launched it with some ambiguity about where they launched the 10 armed drones from. They appeared to thank supporters inside Saudi so it is possible that they launched from inside of Saudi Arabia.

Which would fit the existing deployed capabilities of Houthi drones of about 150km.. However UN observers have reported the existence of longer range drones with a 1500km capabilities that could reach from Yemen territory. These drones appear to be copies of or are supplied by Iran. 

Allied weapon suppliers have been ubiquitous in this conflict. The US has been supplying air weapons to the Saudis.

Iranian foreign ministry spokesman, Seyyed Abbas Mousavi, rejected the accusation that Iran was behind the attack.
 
“Such blind accusations and inappropriate comments in a diplomatic context are incomprehensible and meaningless,” he said, adding: “even hostility needs a certain degree of credibility and reasonable frameworks, US officials have also violated these basic principles.”
 
Saudi Arabia has been leading a military campaign to quash the Houthi rebels in Yemen since March 2015. The conflict is widely seen as a proxy war between the Saudis and Iran, which has been backing the Houthis.
 
Pompeo also called for other countries to denounce Iran and promised American efforts to help support the energy market.
 
That last claim from Pompeo is simply just bullshit. By exactly the same logic, other countries should denounce America for the vast supply of weapons it has been supplying to the Saudi government to attack Yemen. It really is extremely hard to take this fool seriously.
 
But what this does remind me of the similar self-evidently false statements by the US government about the existence of WMD in Iraq leading up to their invasion of Iraq in 2012. At the time a lot of the “coalition of the willing” (which NZ fortunately was not), including our simple aussie cousins appeared to be the coalition of sheep following a blatantly manufactured lie.
 
The ‘evidence’ of WMD then was as manufactured and about credible as more recent Russian ‘evidence’ to provide the equally simple minded sheep who believe RT. That Crimea welcomed their invasion with a massive turnout at a unsupervised referendum seems extremely unlikely. That ‘evidence’ that their troops never fired on and destroyed a passenger jet in the Eastern Ukraine contradicts all other hard evidence.
 
Just like what happened when the UN looked through the WMB ‘sites’ in Iraq in the debris of the war to find the dusty remains of long abandoned programs – and evidence that sanctions had worked.
 
However it wouldn’t surprise me if Pompeo’s old gig at the CIA starts finding similarly sourced ‘evidence’ of Iran firing those drones shortly.  That well of faith by allies and friends has been well and truly poisoned. I don’t expect that Winston Peters will be any time soon issuing a public and unequivocal condemnation of either Iran or the US for supplying weapons sustaining a destructive war.
 
I’d even be surprised if Australia would. But I guess that largely depends on how much they think that they could get out of it. Some delivered spares for their F-35A Joint Strike Fighters might do it – then they could actually start to rely on getting them off the ground.
 
What I am surprised about is just how clean the attack was. There have been no claims of casualties. It appears to have been tightly targeted to a clear legitimate economic target of a nation warring on the Houthi government – it funds the purchase of the weapons that have been bombing military and the civilians in their area. It hit the correct infrastructure to cause maximum damage.
 
There are some estimates that it will drop the total Saudi production of oil by up to half for some time. Now on the whole this isn’t a bad thing because increases in prices of oil are useful in reducing the demand for oil and spurring the introduction of technologies that spew less CO2 into the atmosphere. Which is more important as any economic downturn at the present time.
 
It is important to be aware that there are claims that each of the 10 drones may cost as little as USD 15,000. To me this appears to be a turning point in a lot of regional conflicts. As if it hadn’t been apparent already based on the 4 year lack of progress in Yemen civil war, lots of advanced weapons doesn’t indicate an ability to decide a conflict. But now the conflict appears to be demonstrating the ability to strike back cheaply at economic and military targets inside the homeland of a regional participant.

It is going to be intriguing to see the effects of this genie being let out of the bag.

30 comments on “Legitimate target, daft war ”

  1. vto 1

    yep, it's all Warehouse drones from here on in…

    the playing field is dramatically levelled all over the entire planet

    • lprent 1.1

      Jez, I didn't realise that the warehouse sold multiwing fuelled systems like that one above. In fact I didn't realise that they sold drones at all

      I thought PBTech just sold the USD 250 quad copter with multiple loopy propellers spinning against each other – like your brain appears to do when it is 'thinking'…

      /sarc

      Different technologies. These are more like cheap cruise missiles – the kind that Bruce Simpson was talking about making a few decades ago, but with better autonomy systems.

      • vto 1.1.1

        of course lprent, i was forward-fantasticising…

        but you're right about the props spinning against each at times…. a favourable trait for proper people-thinking I think …

  2. Dennis Frank 2

    Halving the Saudi oil output is a grand technical achievement. They ought to capitalise on it by sending this message to the world: `think of us as the Green Liberation Front'.

    Relevant excerpts from Wikipedia's Houthi page: "In August 2018, the United Nations had found out the North Korean government had armed the Houthis via Syria after a meeting between a Houthi member and a North Korean government official."

    "The Houthis have repeatedly used a drone that is nearly identical to Iran Aircraft Manufacturing Industrial Company's Ababil-T drone in strikes against Saudi Arabia."

    "In August 2018, despite previous Iranian denial of military support for the Houthis, IRGC commander Nasser Shabani was quoted by the Fars News Agency which has been described as the semi-official news agency of the Iranian government as saying, "We (IRGC) told Yemenis [Houthi rebels] to strike two Saudi oil tankers, and they did it," on 7 August 2018. In response to Shabani's account, the IRGC released a statement saying that the quote was a "Western lie" and that Shabani was a retired commander, despite no actual reports of his retirement after 37 years in the IRGC, and media linked to the Iranian government confirming he was still enlisted with the IRGC." https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Houthi_movement

    • lprent 2.1

      In August 2018, despite previous Iranian denial of military support for the Houthis..

      I put the same credence on that that I place on statements like those supporting positive identification of WMDs in Iraq in 2012. Or statements that the war was over by George W on the aircraft carrier.

      However, I don't consider that Iran supporting the Houthi with military supply and intelligence is any different from the US supporting Saudi Arabia militarily and with intelligence. Apples with Apples.

      • Dennis Frank 2.1.1

        Yeah, totally. Pompeo's just as likely to be using propaganda to spin the news as any spokesperson for any major power. We know the Gulf of Tonkin incident was faked to get the yanks into the Vietnam War, ever since they declassified the proof a few years ago…

    • Dukeofurl 2.2

      Do you really think a claim that isnt from an original source like Fars News agency but its wikipedia site will do?

      " "We (IRGC) told Yemenis [Houthi rebels] to strike two Saudi oil tankers, and they did it"

      I did a search of Fars site for Nasser Shabani and found nothing

      and I found this , which looks in detail into the full claim and finds a 'mis translation'

      https://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2018/08/did-irgc-commander-say-houthis-were-ordered-to-strike-tankers.php

      Its high class fake news your claim.

      • Dennis Frank 2.2.1

        My claim?? I never claimed anything. Merely reported a relevant section from Wikipedia. I'm agnostic about whether Wikipedia's system accurately maps the real world. They may indeed by faking it…

        • Dukeofurl 2.2.1.1

          But it has no sources that readers here can check. I looked at the source quoted in Wikipedia ( which you did not)

          And found this…

          "Hours later, Fars news agency (FNA) amended the report by taking out the comment.

          Seems like 'lots of sites say' Fars ( FNA) said this and it may well have but …

          The Wikipedia Houthi Movement page is in semi lockdown… the quote you had was only inserted 3 days ago. Someone is very interested in Houthi affairs

  3. Dukeofurl 3

    There seems to have been other long range drone strikes claimed , but as usual had been denied by KSA as reported in Long War Journal

    “Last month, the Houthis claimed another drone operation against Saudi’s Shaybah oil field near the United Arab Emirates. At more than 1,000 miles away from it’s Yemen territory, that strike marked one of the Houthis farthest claimed attacks.

    The Houthis also claimed a drone strike on the Abu Dhabi airport last year, but that has been denied by Emirati officials.

    Additionally, a drone strike on Saudi’s East-West oil pipeline near Riyadh earlier this year, which the Houthis claimed responsibility, was allegedly conducted by Iranian-backed Iraqi militants. If accurate, that means the Houthi claim of responsibility acted as a type of diplomatic cover for the Iraqi militants."

    • lprent 3.1

      Interesting site. Must have a look at it later.

      Indeed, Kuwait’s Al Rai Media has reported that a drone entered Kuwaiti airspace in a flightpath originating from Iraq shortly before the attacks in Saudi Arabia. That information has not yet been confirmed, however.

      Nevertheless, the Houthis have clearly demonstrated that its drone capabilities – which have been supported by Iran – are continuously improving and can penetrate areas further away from Yemen.

      Looking at the distance between closest point in Iraq and Buqayq, it is at least 600km. It wouldn't surprise me if it was launched in Iraq. Lots of reasonably deserted territory and hill forms to keep it concealed.

      While this is less than the distance from Iran, the problem for Pompeo's direct thesis (launch from Iran) is that the Persian Gulf is heavily covered with radar, vessels, and military. It is also a sea which makes it hard for even low-level drones to do much that isn't detected. Ground-hugging works best with hills rather than waves.

      It also makes it hard to frame up confirmation. Even if the Iranians were crazy enough to launch from there, there would be quite a lot of radar sightings if not human sightings. And I doubt that anyone would think that the Iraq government was in any condition to attack a neighbour after the US invasion – but it is lawless enough to allow launches from its soil.

      But the important point is what was at the end of that post…

      Since beginning its drone program last year, the Houthis have launched at least 103 drone strikes in Yemen and Saudi Arabia according to data compiled by FDD’s Long War Journal.

      Today’s strikes also demonstrate the global repercussions of this tactic, as Saudi oil production slowed over the weekend as a result.

      Cheap strikes done a lot and with increasing damage will shift the military balance massively.

  4. soddenleaf 4

    What would defeat look like? Saudi oil unprotected… …Saudi have lost.

  5. adam 5

    So attacking a bonafide military target creates outrage – but killing kids is OK.

    https://www.savethechildren.org/us/about-us/media-and-news/2019-press-releases/every-month-yemeni-children-killed

    https://www.dw.com/en/7500-kids-killed-or-maimed-in-yemen-since-2013-un-says/a-49408243

    I said it somewhere else today but let me repeat it.

    What a truly dumb age we live in.

  6. joe90 6

    Imagine Obama or HRC saying the U.S is waiting for the Kingdom to send instructions. Republicans and RWNJs the world over would stroke out en masse.

  7. Stuart Munro. 7

    This only scratches the surface of drone possibilities, as with the development of the dreadnought, the old power balance is stripped away and the playing field is somewhat leveled.

    It would not be far to look to find interests that conceived that hobbling or humbling the major US ally in the region and driving up the oil price as positives. The young king has things to learn, if he gets the chance.

  8. weston 8

    So the head chopping capital of the world kingdom of 15 thousand princes and no princess'es are getting a bit of payback boo fucking hoo !!Time we got our oil from somewhere more deserving.

  9. Adam Ash 9

    At the risk of seeming just a little skeptical, when you look at the images of damage to those four tanks, it all seems so very very tidy.

    https://www.zerohedge.com/s3/files/inline-images/sat3.jpg?itok=l3pdMxmN

    No debris from the drones (wings, motors etc), all four hits in a remarkably straight line. If drones, they are very wonderful drones capable of incredible (dare I suggest unbelievable) accuracy one target after the other. Or are the holes from a helicopter gunship hovering nearby, taking its time firing a big solid rocket?

    Are we being asked to believe something which is not quite true? Again?

    • Dukeofurl 9.1

      Another answer is zerohedge is telling you crap. There is debris and supposed to be 17 hits not all were a complete success.

      Oh ,hasn't the Houthis themselves claimed success? They have had multiple attacks at different sites over the last month or so.

      • Adam Ash 9.1.1

        Zerohedge gave me the images. I drew my own conclusions. This is just far too convenient, and far too precise. I smell another rat, and God knows, from WMD to Sarin bombs, we have had enough rats to smell of late.

        • McFlock 9.1.1.1

          The rather colourful thought occurs that if there's shit on the end of your nose, everything smells like a turd.

          Drones are supposed to be accurate. They're not an area weapon like artillery or dumb bombs.

          Secondly, what size debris are you expecting? Those are big tanks. How big are the wings needed to get there? How much explosive would you need to make a hole like that?

          Thirdly, so if it's a drone strike, do you think it's multiple suicide drones, or an armed drone like a US predator (didn't the Iranians knick one of them a few years back)? Those fire the same rockets as helicopter gunships,

    • lprent 9.2

      I don't know exactly what those targets were. But they look hollow and not the right shape to be containers of liquid. They look more like domes around processing plant to protect them from weather.

      These images are from the Guardian

      Small warheads, hollow structures, and the idea would be to wreck equipment rather than try to put oil on fire. Probably some kind of penetration explosion designed to get through a thin skin and then munitions to explode inside.

      Some of the other parts of the plant (on the left) look like they have struck external structures with more obvious explosive damage.

      The chaos after Iraq war in 1991 gave the false idea that oil is easy to get burning. It isn't particularly. Mostly the wellhead fires were largely the gas being ignited in a pressurised outflow with a spray of burning oil reducing access to the head. But that takes explosives carefully placed at the wellhead to get started. There has been some interesting books published about the pain of trying to cap those wellheads.

      • Adam Ash 9.2.1

        I think those are gas tanks, or even compressed air. Strange that there is not much evidence of burning of the contents on most of those hit tanks. Perhaps they were emptied in anticipation? 😉

  10. Wayne 10

    It seems unlikely that the Houthis would have enough drones capable of such long distance strikes. If they did, they got them from the Iranians. Though that doesn’t make Iran the aggressor.

    But if the Iranians did actually conduct the strike then I expect Saudi retaliation. The Saudis have plenty of capability to do so, especially if they get intelligence from the US.

    So a real prospect of air and naval war between Saudi and Iran. How will that end? By a negotiated ceasefire. Neither can really defeat the other, though they can cause an awful amount of damage. If war happens expect oil to go well above $100. Possibly bringing about a serious global recession.

    So a lot of incentive for everyone to step back. But national pride in both countries might prevent that happening in the short term.

    • Pat 10.1

      Saudis arnt going to declare war on Iran without full (military) support of the US….and if the US attack Iran the Saudis dont need to

    • lprent 10.2

      So a lot of incentive for everyone to step back. But national pride in both countries might prevent that happening in the short term.

      I'd expect that is the discussion going on right now. Plus the other one going on in Washington about the effects of a war on the price of fuel, a weakening economy, and the 2020 election campaign.

      It really is a daft war though. The idea of winning a war largely based on air power in Yemen has been tried before. It was the 'new' basis of the British attempts to quell tribes back in the 1930s and didn't work then for exactly the same reasons as now. Even after WW2 with vastly better aircraft, it didn’t work. They could control some of the coastal cities but not the country side. All the air attacks did was to damage exposed infrastructure which once it was gone wasn't relevant any more.

      Now the UAE have pulled their ground troops out because the war looks unwinnable, I don't think that there is a good chance of any ability to take the ground. And even it you did, it is big ask to hold it down. Especially when it is coastal tribes trying to hold down interior ones. Which is how this whole mess started in the first place.

      The same considerations apply to attacking Iran except on a vastly larger scale. That was the basic strategic and tactical issue in the Iran-Iraq war. It is why the long-running sanctions against Iran haven’t worked either. The best chance for peace in the region was muffed by Trump pulling out of the nuclear / sanctions agreement – which wasn’t so much about the nuclear issue, but more about providing a face-saving way to normalize relations by dropping sanctions.

      • Dennis Frank 10.2.1

        it is coastal tribes trying to hold down interior ones. Which is how this whole mess started in the first place

        And then this: "the Islamic State militant group has attacked all of the conflict's major parties including Houthis, Saleh forces, the Yemeni government, and the Saudi Arabian-led coalition forces." https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Houthi_movement

        The old idea that war is two sides fighting each other got boring, eh? Let's have many sides fighting each other, variety is the spice of life. Forget non-violent conflict resolution, takes out all the fun! You're right, such a daft war…

  11. gnomic 11

    The Romans passed through a while back and called the Yemen 'Arabia Felix', fertile as opposed to the deserts to the north. Now known as Saudi Arabia. The infernal combustion engine was then unknown.

    Some may recall the simple days of yesteryear when it was North and South Yemen. The South was bad as harbouring a communist assault on the sultanate of Oman. Ranulph Fiennes was soldiering there.

    "Becoming disillusioned by his British Army service, in particular his career prospects, he spent the last two years of his service seconded to the army of the Sultan of Oman. At the time, Oman was experiencing a growing communist insurgency supported from neighbouring South Yemen. Fiennes had a crisis of conscience soon after arriving in Oman, as he became aware of the Sultan's poor government. However he decided that the oppression threatened by a communist takeover, combined with moves towards progressive change within the Sultanate system, justified his part in the conflict." As with most 'counter-insurgency' a nasty war even by his own account of goodies and baddies..

    The British colonialists had previously tried to organise life in Yemen for quite some time as they would. Maybe today is their legacy?

    https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2019/04/most-fragile-states-in-2019-yemen/

    Ah those proxy wars. The smell of dead innocents in the morning, mmmm so sweet.

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