by Staff writer, SF
On Thursday, after Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthis attacked two ships in the Red Sea’s Bab al-Mandeb strait, Saudi Arabia said it was suspending oil shipments through the waterway, one of the world’s most important tanker routes.
Yemen lies on one side of the Bab al-Mandeb strait at the southern mouth of the sea. Saudi crude exports through Bab al-Mandeb are estimated at around 500,000-700,000 barrels per day (bpd), according to analysts and Reuters data. Most Gulf oil exports that transit the Suez Canal and SUMED Pipeline pass through the strait.
The Houthis have previously threatened to block the strait. They said on Thursday that they had the naval capability to hit Saudi ports and other Red Sea targets.
Additionally, Iran has threatened to block another strategic shipping route, the Strait of Hormuz, where one-third of the world’s oil passes in tankers. During his visit to Europe earlier this month, Iran’s president, Hassan Rouhani, said that Tehran could disrupt regional crude shipments.
As well, the commander of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards, Mohammad Ali Jafari, was quoted by state run Tasnim news agency as saying, “We will make the enemy understand that either everyone can use the Strait of Hormuz or no one.” Jafari, whose forces patrol the Strait of Hormuz said the Guards were ready to put Rouhani’s words into action if necessary.
The Trump administration have responded to the July 25th attacks on Saudi oil tankers by Iranian-backed Houthi rebels, saying that military options may be inevitable. Official sources say that administration is considering military action to keep key oil shipping routes in the Middle East open, following escalating rhetoric between Iran and the US after Tehran attacked the waterways.
However, rather than American troops, according to officials, military action would be taken by US allies such as Saudi Arabia. Their claims came after Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen attacked a pair of Saudi oil tankers which were traveling through the Bab al-Mandab Strait leading to the Red Sea.
As reported by CNN, these official sources added that a long-term military effort will require the involvement of other nations.
That the US intends to keep international oil shipping routes open, was emphasized on Friday, by US Defense Secretary James Mattis, who noted “Iran has threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz,” and that in the past Tehran has tried to stop shipments only to be met by an international military response, which included military exercises.