Qatar saw advantages in Iranian attacks on Aramco facilities -- Sources
LONDON - Qatar had advance knowledge of the September 14 attacks on Saudi Aramco's oil facilities, Western intelligence sources said.
The sources pointed out that Iran had informed Qatar in advance of the attacks as part of the coordination that exists between the two sides in everything that could adversely affect Saudi Arabia.
The drone attacks caused significant damage to Aramco's facilities at Abqaiq and Khurais and reduced Saudi oil production for several days.
A Gulf security official expressed the belief that Qatar’s objective went beyond the destructive impact of the operation in that it was meant to sabotage Aramco's planned IPO by suggesting that its facilities were under threat of attack and that investment in Aramco carries significant risks.
Pro-Iranian Houthi rebels, who control an area of northern Yemen, including Sana’a, have claimed responsibility for the attacks, while Saudi Arabia and US official sources confirmed that the launch of the drones was from Iranian territory.
“We continue to process information on the attack against Aramco. The conclusions will be released mainly through the Saudis,” said General Kenneth McKenzie, who oversees operations in the Middle East and South Asia.
McKenzie added: “We are working with the Saudis to enhance the networking between their systems. That will make them better able to defend against this type of threats.”
The US official said that boosting the US military presence at Prince Sultan Air Base south of Riyadh, in addition to other large bases, would “complicate an adversary’s targeting ability."
Western intelligence sources disclosed that Qatar had advance knowledge of the Iranian attacks on Aramco's facilities days after Fox News had revealed that Qatar also knew beforehand of the attacks carried out on May 12 by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards against four oil tankers, two of which were Saudi and the other two Norwegian and Emirati, off the UAE port of Fujairah. The tankers were moderately damaged.
Fox News reported that Qatar was aware of the Iranian attacks on merchant vessels and oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman, and did not provide this information to the Americans or the French and the British.
“Credible intelligence reports indicate that the IRGC's Quds Force is responsible for the attacks near Fujairah, and that elements of the Iranian government as well as the State of Qatar were aware of the IRGC's activities,” Fox News said in its report.
After reviewing the Fox News report, French lawmaker Natalie Goulet said she was deeply concerned about the information she received and that she would send the report to the Ministry of Defense and ask questions to her European colleagues in charge of the Middle East.
The United States and France have stepped up radar system capabilities in Saudi Arabia following the drone and missile attacks on the kingdom’s oil infrastructure. Washington had blamed the attacks on Iran.
French Defense Minister Florence Barley said Paris was separately sending Riyadh “a set of powerful early warning systems," including radar systems that can detect and destroy low-flying objects.
Saudi Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel al-Jubeir told the Manama Dialogue Conference that Riyadh was consulting its allies about measures to be taken against Iran after completing the investigation into the Aramco attacks.
Western diplomatic sources confirm that Iran has launched a series of attacks on Saudi Arabia, some directly and some through the Houthis, in response to US sanctions.
Washington’s sanctions have had a direct impact on Iran's ability to export its oil at a time when its economy has been experiencing major problems, especially because of the regime's failure to diversify the country’s economy.
High-level Arab political sources indicated that they were not surprised at the Qatari-Iranian coordination targeting Saudi Arabia, because it has been going on for many years, especially since both countries, Tehran and Doha, have cooperated closely with the Muslim Brotherhood and gave it protection. The Saudi-led Arab quartet has imposed a boycott of Qatar since June 2017.
Doha has increased its support for the Houthis in Yemen. This support was evident in the assistance provided by Qatar to Yemeni tribes in the vicinity of Sana'a to distance themselves from the late Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who had close ties with these tribes and their leaders.
This type of support made it easier for the Houthis, according to area experts, to assassinate the former Yemeni president on December 3, 2017. Ali Abdullah Saleh was living in those days at his home in Sana'a and began taking steps to rid Sana'a of Iranian influence.