Saudi Coalition Targets Houthis In Yemen In Response To Oil Pipeline Attack

Risk-taker John Bolton is ready for war to break out

Drone attacks on pipelines in Saudi Arabia and the mysterious alleged sabotage of tankers this week sent pulses racing, but a phony war in the Persian Gulf failed to trigger a feared triple-digit surge in crude prices.

Saudi Arabia and Iran are essentially fighting a proxy war in Yemen, where the Saudis lead a military Arab coalition to "restore legitimacy" in the country, while the Houthi movement, which holds the capital Sanaa, is backed by Iran. On Thursday, the Joint Forces Command of the Coalition to Restore Legitimacy in Yemen conducted a series of air strikes on Houthi targets in Sanaa.

"The attack by the Iranian-backed Houthi militias against the two Aramco pumping stations proves that these militias are merely a tool that Iran's regime uses to implement its expansionist agenda in the region, and not to protect the people of Yemen as the Houthis falsely claim".

Recent days have seen allegations of sabotage targeting oil tankers off the coast of the United Arab Emirates, a drone attack by Yemen's Iranian-allied Houthi rebels, and the dispatch of USA warships and bombers to the region.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Zarif, speaking in Tokyo on Thursday, said Iran was committed to an global nuclear deal but the escalating USA sanctions were "unacceptable".

Tehran has called the US military presence "a target" rather than a threat, and said it would not allow its oil exports to be halted.

Last week, USA officials said they had detected signs of Iranian preparations for potential attacks on US forces and interests in the Middle East, but Washington has not spelled out that threat.

But foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif later said there was "no possibility" of negotiations to reduce tensions, describing USA pressure as an "act of suicide". Khamenei has final say on all matters of state in Iran.

Officials are still trying to determine who was behind the attacks and how they were carried out - but the incident comes after the US warned ships that "Iran or its proxies" could be targeting maritime traffic in the region.

Gulf tensions have spiked since the USA stopped granting waivers to buyers of Iranian oil early this month, tightening sanctions slapped on the Islamic Republic after President Donald Trump pulled the US out of the landmark 2015 nuclear deal a year ago.

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An alert on the website of the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad said all nonessential, nonemergency U.S. government staff were ordered to leave Iraq right away under State Department orders.

US officials believe Iran encouraged the Houthis or Iraq-based Shi'ite militias to carry out the attack, two USA government sources have said.

However, he also said the UAE is "very committed to de-escalation" after the alleged sabotage of oil tankers off the country's coast on Sunday.

A statement from the coalition confirmed its forces are "resolved to follow all terrorist elements across all of Yemen, and will be resolute to target all locations from which terrorist attacks are initiated".

Some observers speculate Tehran is seeking to retaliate over Washington's decision in April to put Iran's Revolutionary Guards on a terrorism blacklist - a move created to stymie their activities across the Middle East.

Al-Jazeera said the US was aware of the trip in advance, but did not elaborate further.

Iran recently threatened to resume higher enrichment in 60 days if no new nuclear deal is in place, beyond the level permitted by the current one between Tehran and world powers.

Meanwhile, the Qatar-funded satellite news broadcaster Al-Jazeera said Qatar is trying to "defuse escalating tensions".

She said the UAE was co-operating closely with Saudi Arabia, Norway, France, and the United States to investigate the incident.

Tensions in West Asia have been rising since the United States, along with Saudi Arabia and UAE have sought to ratchet up the pressure on Iran.

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