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It could take weeks for Saudi Arabia to restore the oil supply affected by attacks on two facilities of state-owned giant Aramco as doubts about the provenance of sabotage and fears that the loss of half of the total daily crude production of the kingdom can trigger prices and further complicate the turbulent regional situation.
The dozen drones that hit the Abqaiq and Khurais plants early on Saturday are, to date, the most serious attack suffered by the largest producer of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). After hours of mutism, the brand new Saudi energy minister, Prince Abdelaziz bin Salman , acknowledged that Aramco will have to reduce its production by half after an aggression that has turned off the tap of about 5.7 million barrels per day, "around 50% of the production ".
Riyadh , with a previous daily production of 9.8 million barrels, will try to compensate for the decrease through inventories. The attack has also paralyzed part of the associated gas production, about 2,000 million cubic feet per day, used to obtain 700,000 thousand barrels of liquid gas. A decrease that will reduce by half the supply of ethane gas and natural gas. Aramco, which has not provided a calendar to restore its usual capacity, has pledged this Sunday to provide a balance of the situation within 48 hours.
"No proof that the attacks come from Yemen"
The authorship of the onslaught, which has not caused personal injury among the company's employees, casts shadows. Although the Shiite rebel group of the Houthis , one of the main actors in the war in neighboring Yemen , claimed responsibility for the attack, the US and international experts doubt its involvement. "There is no evidence that the attacks come from Yemen," said Mike Pompeo , US Secretary of State, on Saturday.
Iraq and Iran , much closer to the Aramco facilities in the eastern province of Saudi Arabia, could be the origin of the drone battalion that has put the Saudi monarchy in check and its crown jewel, the world's largest oil company whose Partial privatization has been prepared for months with the help of nine international banks. "The Aramco plants are quite far from Yemen but close to Iraq and that could be the source, as happened recently with the attack on an oil pipeline, perpetrated by Iraqi Shiite militias under orders from Iran," Fabian Hinz , a researcher, tells EL MUNDO from the American James Martin Center .
Washington has openly accused Tehran of having made and committed an "unprecedented attack on the global oil supply," in the midst of escalating reciprocal accusations that have raised tension in the Middle East . In response, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohamed Javad Zarif has blamed the US for having gone from "maximum pressure to maximum deception." "The US and its allies are trapped in Yemen for their illusion that arms superiority will lead them to military victory. Accusing Iran will not end the disaster."
An Iranian Revolutionary Guard commander has assured that the country is prepared for a "full-fledged" war. "Everyone should know that US bases and their aircraft carriers that are within a radius of 2,000 kilometers from Iran are within the range of our missiles," threatened Amirali Hajizadeh , head of the aerospace force of the Revolutionary Guard.
Iraq, in the middle of the crossfire
The Iraqi Government, planted in spite of it in the middle of the crossfire, has denied this Sunday any involvement of its country in the attacks and "the information indicating that the Iraqi territory was used to attack Saudi oil facilities using drones." Baghdad has also announced that it will punish those who try to use the country as a launching platform for regional attacks.
Both Riyadh and Washington are in full research on the provenance of sabotage. They also do not rule out the use of cruise missiles in the assault at the heart of the vital oil industry of the Saudi kingdom.
Last July the Houthis presumed to have a new type of cruise missiles with a range of more than 1,400 kilometers, capable - according to the rebels - of changing the course of a war that began in March 2015, when the Arab coalition led Riyadh opened the bombings on the poorest country of the Arabian peninsula. In recent months, they have launched missiles up to three times.
While the authorship and details of the attack are clarified, Crown Prince and Defense Minister Mohamed bin Salman has stressed that his country has "the will and strength to fail terrorist aggression and deal with its consequences," in a telephone conversation with US President Donald Trump , who has offered to "cooperate to maintain security and stability."
Another question is the effect of sabotage and the reduction of Saudi supply, which represents more than 5% of global production, in the markets. Saudi stock indexes have released this week the week with an initial drop of 2.3 percent. The collapse has also been reflected, to a lesser extent, in the parks of neighboring countries. "This Monday we should see the main players in the market adding an important risk premium to oil prices," analyst Giovanni Staunovo tells this newspaper.
"The reserve capacity is limited and is mainly in Saudi hands," warns the expert. The Saudi authorities - also immersed in a long-awaited process to launch the sale of 5 percent of Aramco, the most profitable company on the planet, with a net profit of $ 111.1 billion in 2018 - are in talks with other member countries of OPEC to probe the possibility of contributing to calm the markets.
Sabotage also threatens to reduce efforts to boost peace negotiations in Yemen to a new fiasco, where a new front in the south of the country has joined the fight against the Houthis, with violent skirmishes between hitherto allied , opening serious fractures between Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates . "The recent military escalation is very worrying," said UN envoy in Yemen Martin Griffiths before admitting that the situation complicates the "fragile" political process sponsored by the international organization.
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