- At a news conference in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on Wednesday, Saudi Defence Ministry spokesman Col. Turki al-Malki presented what he alleged is wreckage from Iranian drones and missiles from an attack Saudi Arabia’s state-owned oil facilities on Saturday.
- Al-Malki said that the weapons used in Saturday’s attacks are Iranian Ya Ali missiles and Delta Wing drones. But there is a possibility that it is another weapon entirely, researcher Fabian Hinz writes in Arms Control Wonk.
- Hinz’s examination of the wreckage indicated that it was a Quds 1 missile. This missile hasn’t been seen in Iran, but it’s possible that Iran is producing them – or their components – there. They could be supplied to proxies or fired by Iranian forces.
- Iran has continued to deny responsibility for the attack.
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On Wednesday, Saudi Arabia’s Defence Ministry spokesman Col. Turki al-Malki presented evidence from a Saudi investigation into attacks on its state-owned oil facilities on Saturday, telling reporters that the wreckage of drones and missiles is “undeniable” evidence that Iran supported the attack, Al-Jazeera reports.
“The attack was launched from the north and unquestionably sponsored by Iran,” al-Malki said. “The evidence … that you have seen in front of you makes this undeniable.”
“The Iranian regime and the IRGC [Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps], they are trying to hide any evidence” of involvement, he said. “We do have a lot of evidence against the IRGC and we will provide it to the United Nations and through the right channel according to the international law.”
However, al-Malki stopped short of saying that Iran was directly responsible for the attacks that brought the Saudi oil industry to its knees this week.
Al-Malki showed remnants from 25 drones and missiles he said were used in the attack on Saudi Aramco, the world’s largest oil producer. He said authorities were still trying to determine the exact launch point, but affirmed that the weapons came from north of the targets.
Houthi rebels in Yemen have claimed responsibility for the attack.
The Houthis are a Shia rebel group backed by Iran, which helped overthrow the Yemeni government in 2015. They have been fighting against Saudi-backed forces in Yemen for the past four years, causing the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, according to the UN. The US has supported Saudi’s campaign with intelligence and logistics, including US-made bombs.
Al-Malki stopped short of saying that the missiles were launched by the Iranian government, but says that the evidence affirms Iran’s involvement.
Al-Malki said that 18 drones and seven missiles were launched against Saudi Aramco’s Khurais oil field and Abqaiq oil processing plant, the largest in the world.
Al Malki told reporters that 18 drones and seven missiles targeted the facilities. Three of the missiles, those headed for Abqaiq, he said, failed to reach their destination.
Both the US and Saudi Arabia have said that the weapons were not launched from Yemen, whose border is about 500 miles from the attack site. Al-Malki said on Wednesday that their range was approximately 435 miles, and played a video of what he alleged was a drone approaching from the direction of Iran, TIME reports.
Shortly after the attack, photos purporting to show wreckage of the missiles in the Saudi Arabian desert began circulating on social media.
Well well well… pic.twitter.com/bPgY6J67JE
— محمد بن خالد (@MbKS15) September 14, 2019
Social media users alleged that the photos, as Fabian Hinz, a researcher at the James Martin Centre for Nonproliferation Studies, writes on Arms Control Wonk appeared to be of an Iranian Soumar cruise missile, which is modelled after a Soviet-era KH-55 cruise missile. But Hinz’s examination of the wreckage indicated that it was actually a Quds 1, a missile the Houthis claim to have developed.
The Houthis claim to have developed the Quds 1 missile themselves, Hinz writes. but there’s not a high likelihood of that, given the grinding poverty and lack of infrastructure in Yemen.
In Wednesday’s news conference, al Malki said that the missiles were Ya Ali missiles – the same type of weapon that Saudi Arabia said was used in the attacks on Abha airport in June.
But as Hinz noted on Twitter, the wreckage al-Malki presented actually matches the components of a Quds 1, including the type of engine used – a Czech-designed TJ100.
So the missile debris presented today almost certainly belongs to Quds 1 cruise missiles. The engine matches the Quds 1's Czech-designed TJ-100 engine pretty well ( rear cover might have been changed on one of them) pic.twitter.com/ddxzwwNpCI
— Fabian Hinz (@fab_hinz) September 18, 2019
rear fuselage matches pretty well too pic.twitter.com/AwbGpEoYMo
— Fabian Hinz (@fab_hinz) September 18, 2019
However, Hinz notes, Iran appears to be manufacturing replicas of the TJ-100, too, for use in its drone program. Iran could potentially be furnishing a component, or an entire missile, for use by its Houthi proxies – or the appearance of such a use, Hinz claims.
If indeed the missile components shown Wednesday are from a Quds 1, that doesn’t mean the Houthi forces are behind the attack.
It could simply mean that Iran is manufacturing weapons components for its proxies. While Hinz notes that the Quds 1 hasn’t been seen within Iran, other weapons seen in Yemen are composed of parts suspiciously similar to ones from Iran, pointing out specifically the Badr-1P precision-guided missile and the Badr-F precision-guided missile.
The Houthis are still claiming responsibility for the attacks on Saudi Aramco facilities, but as NPR points out, their claims don’t actually match the numbers. Saria said that the Houthis launched 10 drones in the Aramco strike, but satellite images show 17 points of impact at the facilities.
Houthi military spokesman Yahya Saria said that they used Samad 3 and Qassef 3 drones, some equipped with bombs, to carry out the strike, and that they planned to strike the United Arab Emirates, a partner in the Saudi coalition fighting the Houthis which has greatly stepped back its involvement in the campaign.
Iran still denies involvement in the strikes on Saudi Arabia.
The United States has been forceful in its assessment that Iran is behind the attacks, with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo calling the incident “an act of war” on Wednesday.
It’s unclear how the US, which has been edging ever closer to direct conflict with Iran all summer, will respond to an attack on its ally Saudi Arabia. President Donald Trump seeks to increase sanctions on Iran, Bloomberg reports, but whether there will be a military response is unclear.
Shortly after the incident on Saturday, Trump tweeted that the US was “locked and loaded,” seemingly threatening attack. Just a day later, he told reporters, “Do I want war? I don’t want war with anybody.”
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