Saudi Arabia oil stations attacked by drones

Dubai: Saudi Energy Minister Khalid Al Falih said on Tuesday that two oil pumping stations for the East-West pipeline had been hit by explosive-laden drones, calling the attack “an act of terrorism” that targeted global oil supplies.

Falih condemned the attacks in a statment saying: “The latest acts of terrorism and sabotage in the Arabian Gulf… not only target the Kingdom but also the security of oil supplies to the world and the global economy.”

“These attacks prove again that it is important for us to face terrorist entities, including the Houthi militias in Yemen that are backed by Iran,” he said.

Falih said Saudi oil output and exports for crude and refined products were continuing without disruption, but that the state oil giant Aramco had halted oil pumping in the pipeline while the damage was evaluated and the stations were repaired, according to a statement carried by the state news agency SPA.

The 1,200-kilometre pipeline carries crude from Saudi Arabia’s main eastern oil fields to the Red Sea port city of Yanbu in the west.

Oil prices go up

Oil prices rose sharply on Tuesday after the drone attack. Brent crude futures were at $71.15 a barrel at 1155 GMT, up 92 cents or 1.31 per cent, according to Reuters.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were at $61.68 per barrel, up 64 cents or 1.05 per cent.

The pumping stations targeted lie west of the capital Riyadh, at Dawadmi and Afeef.


CIA Intercept Reveals Saudi Crown Prince Sent 11 Messages To Head Of Khashoggi Hit Team Hours Before Murder

It has been nearly two months to the day since Jamal Khashoggi walked into the Saudi consulate in Istanbul hoping to retrieve papers needed to marry his Turkish fiance – only to be killed and butchered by a 15-man Saudi murder squad.

In the intervening weeks, the Saudis have suffered remarkably little blowback (considering that the uproar elicited by Khashoggi’s murder nearly triggered a global diplomatic crisis): To date, the US and Canada have levied sanctions against a 17 Saudis suspected of participating or orchestrating Khashoggi’s murder, and a handful of countries who don’t sell arms to Saudi Arabia have said they will stop selling arms to Saudi Arabia. Meanwhile, both Canada and the UShave balked at similar measures because they would inevitably kill jobs.

Clearly concerned about the flagging interest in holding Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman accountable for his suspected role in ordering the killing, the CIA has decided to pick up where Turkey left off.

Last week, somebody inside the agency leaked a preliminary report to the Washington Post detailing the agency’s determination that MbS had ordered the killing. And on Saturday morning, the Wall Street Journalpublished the latest (illegal) intelligence agency leak when it reported on the contents of intercepts revealing that during the hours after and immediately before the killing, MbS had exchanged 11 messages with Saud al-Qahtani, a close aide to the prince who is believed to have supervised the murder squad.


Putin High-Fives Saudi Prince While Macron Threatens

Russian President Vladimir Putin was seen giving a high-five to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman during the G20 Summit in Argentina on Friday.

The G20 Group summit marks the first time Prince Mohammed bin Salman met with world leaders since the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi last month.

Notably, French President Emmanuel Macron didn’t extend MBS the same pleasantries as Putin due to the Khashoggi killing.

Video captured Macron belittling MBS in a private 5-minute conversation, saying “You never listen to me.”


French President Macron Confronts Saudi Prince MbS

French President Emmanuel Macron confronted Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman over the murder of Jamal Khashoggi on the sidelines of the G20 summit Friday, French officials said.

In a five-minute talk, part of which was caught on tape, Macron gave “very firm” messages to MbS over the killing, French officials told Reuters, and demanded that international experts take part in an investigation into the murder that the Saudi government is suspected of ordering.

The two also spoke about the war in Yemen, per Reuters.

In a video posted by the Saudi Gazettenewspaper, Macron and MbS can be seen speaking quietly.

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Senators Seeking To Shoot Down Yemen Bill Were Paid By Saudi Lobbyists

Prior to the Oct. 2 murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the hands of a Saudi assassination squad — which the CIA believes was on direct orders of crown prince MbS himself — a tiny segment of the American public had likely never heard of the deep Pentagon role in executing the Saudi war on Yemen, which has raged since 2015.

But after Khashoggi’s brutal slaying, the mainstream media suddenly “discovered” what the U.N. has called the “world’s worst humanitarian crisis”. The handful of Senators who’ve long fought to end the U.S. role in the war, however, might now be thinking better late than never as on Wednesday in a hugely important 63-37 victory, the Senate agreed to finally move forward with a full floor debate over the legality of America’s involvement in the conflict.


US Intelligence “Increasingly Convinced” Saudi Prince Ordered Khashoggi’s Killing

By now, there’s little doubt that Jamal Khashoggi is dead – this despite reports that surfaced in the Daily Mail and a handful of other outlets last week claiming that Khashoggi was alive and had been renditioned to Saudi Arabia.

And while the Turkish government has publicly assured the Saudis that they will pursue a cautious, thorough and transparent investigation, even inviting the Saudis to join as a partner in the probe, behind the scenes, Turkish media – which is tightly controlled by the regime – have spread details about a gruesome execution that they say occurred in the office of the (now former) Saudi consul, who was urged to leave the room under threat of reprisal by a member of the hit squad.

What’s more, a leak last week already suggested that the US knew about the Saudis’ plans to ambush Khashoggi – though whether US intercepts detailed a murder plot, or merely a plan to interrogate and rendition the government insider-turned critic, remains unclear.

If anything, the one thing that now appears certain about this situation is that, in a maneuver that’s reminiscent of the de-classification of an intelligence community report blaming Russia for interfering in the 2016 election, the US intelligence community is once again rebelling against the Trump White House – after Trump suggested that he would do everything he could to preserve the US-Saudi relationship (reportedly fearful of losing Saudi cooperation in a plot to undermine Iran) – and has effectively joined with the Turks to undermine the rule of Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman.

The latest example of this appeared in Thursday’s New York Times, where a trio of national security reporters published a piece claiming that the US intelligence agencies have been “increasingly convinced” that MbS directly ordered Khashoggi’s killing – claims that were, admittedly, not based on anything other than circumstantial evidence, by the reporters’ own admission.

American intelligence officials are increasingly convinced that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia is culpable in the killing of the dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi, an appraisal that poses challenges to a White House intent on maintaining a close relationship with the kingdom.

Intelligence agencies have not yet been able to collect direct evidence of the prince’s involvement, American and European officials said. They also have not been able to conclude whether Prince Mohammed directly ordered the killing of Mr. Khashoggi, or whether his intention was to have Mr. Khashoggi captured and taken back to Saudi Arabia, according to one official.

But intelligence agencies have growing circumstantial evidence of the prince’s involvement — including the presence of members of his security detail and intercepts of Saudi officials discussing a possible plan to detain Mr. Khashoggi, according to American officials.

Of course, the intelligence agencies aren’t unique in possessing this so-called “circumstantial” evidence linking suspected members of the so-called hit squad to MbS. Evidence backing up these claims has been publicly available for more than 24 hours since the NYT “independently verified” allegations that were presumably leaked to its reporters by Turkish officials.

Before a final report on the “facts” of the case has even been completed, it appears US intelligence agencies are already working to box Trump in, as the following passage in the Times story appears to set Trump up for more (presumably leaked) accusations that he is disregarding the findings of his own intelligence community, just like he did with Russia.

American intelligence agencies are preparing the assessment of Prince Mohammed to present to President Trump. The work was described by a half-dozen officials on Wednesday, as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo concluded a trip to the kingdom that failed to deliver an immediate diplomatic resolution to the crisis.

Officials said the intelligence agencies are trying to take care not to limit the White House’s policy options, and just put forward facts about the case.

Intelligence reports are only one factor that a White House must consider in concluding matters of national security. Mr. Trump could ignore the classified assessment as he decides what policies he believes are in the American interest, or decide he is unpersuaded by the intelligence.

Mr. Trump has pushed an explanation that a so-called rogue killer could be responsible for the suspected killing, but the intelligence agencies’ assessments could undermine that theory, which in any case has been widely discredited.

The paper has also sought to paint Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s visit with King Salman, MbS and the Saudi foreign minister as an uninspired propaganda ploy, though Pompeo reportedly told the prince in private that, even if he had nothing to do with the killing, his government would ultimately need to take responsibility.

At the State Department’s headquarters in Washington, some diplomats were dismissive when asked about Mr. Pompeo’s mission to Riyadh, the Saudi capital.

But a person familiar with the meeting said that privately, Mr. Pompeo sternly told the prince that even if he did not know whether Mr. Khashoggi had been killed, he would have to take responsibility to help the kingdom avoid the consequences of an international backlash.

The story concluded, in characteristic NYT fashion, with quotes from two foreign policy “experts” lambasting Pompeo and Trump for appearing to prioritize the US-Saudi relationship over humanitarian priorities.

“His instructions are clearly to preserve the U.S.-Saudi relationship at all costs,” said Wendy R. Sherman, a former top State Department official. “So his nonverbal cues and his remarks are intended to do that.” But, she said, “he could have taken off the grin, dispensed with small talk, said facts were important and the U.S. was committed to get them, and ended in a better place.”


R. Nicholas Burns, the third-ranking official at the State Department in the George W. Bush administration, said that Mr. Pompeo was “a serious and tough-minded person” — and that the public did not know what Mr. Pompeo said in private.

“But we have more important interests at stake. We can’t afford to have a business-as-usual attitude. This is a time to be stern with M.B.S., to disavow his government’s crime and to sanction Saudi Arabia,” Mr. Burns said, using the prince’s initials. “Our credibility as a democracy is at stake.”

While the NYT has certainly distinguished itself a the preferred vehicle for leaks out of the US intelligence community, it isn’t alone in trying to shape the narrative surrounding MbS. The Daily Mailpublished a lengthy report Wednesday night detailing the disappearances of three Saudi princes who had criticized MbS’s authoritarian crackdown on human rights. While the Mail doesn’t have the best record for accuracy, the larger point is clear: Western media is seeking to paint MbS as a serial murderer who will mow down anyone – particularly traitorous family members or former government insiders – who dares to criticize his still-unofficial reign. But one fact that has been mostly lost in the churn of reporting surrounding the Khashoggi case is that, in the days after the journalists’ disappearance, the Saudi government agreed to buy S-400 missile defense systems from Russia, spurning repeated American warnings to scupper the deal. That alone could be enough to invite reprisals from deep state operatives who have already demonstrated their distaste for Russia.

All of this will only provide more ammunition for lawmakers who are hoping to sanction Saudi Arabia over the killing, a move that would damage the longstanding US-Saudi relationship, perhaps irreparably.

With this in mind, it’s worth asking: Which country has the most to gain from a collapse in US-Saudi relations?


Media Companies, Executives Drop Out of Saudi Event Over Missing Journalist

Media companies are pulling out of a Saudi investment conference because of growing outrage over the disappearance of a prominent Saudi journalist in Turkey.

Economist Editor-In-Chief Zanny Minton Beddoes will not participate in the Future Investment Initiative conference in Riyadh, spokeswoman Lauren Hackett said in an email.

Andrew Ross Sorkin, a CNBC anchor and New York Times business journalist, tweeted that he was not attending the conference, saying he was “terribly distressed by the disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi and reports of his murder.”

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Saudi air defences intercept missiles above capital

Saudi Arabia said on Sunday it intercepted two missiles launched by Yemen’s Houthi militia over the capital Riyadh, as a Saudi-led coalition moved to wrest control of Yemen’s main port city from the Iran-aligned group.

At least six loud blasts were heard and bright flashes were seen in the sky over the Saudi capital, a Reuters witness said. Shrapnel was spotted on a street in the diplomatic quarter where most embassies are located and many foreigners live.

“Saudi Royal Air Defence Forces intercepted and destroyed the missiles. Some of the debris of the intercepted missiles landed on residential areas, thankfully without causing any casualties,” coalition spokesman Turki al-Malki said in a statement.

Houthi-run al-Masirah television said Burkan missiles were fired at the Saudi defence ministry and other targets.

The attack was the first to target Riyadh since the Saudi-led coalition launched an offensive on June 12 to capture Yemen’s Hodeidah port city, in the biggest battle of the war aimed at weakening the Houthis by cutting their main supply line.

The Houthis, who control most of Yemen including the capital Sanaa, have fired a series of missiles into the kingdom in recent months, part of a three-year-old conflict widely seen as a proxy battle between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

There was a heightened security presence and fire trucks in the diplomatic quarter following Sunday’s missile attack, which was the sixth on Riyadh since December.

“The longer the aggression and war continue, the greater our ballistic missile capabilities,” Al Mayadeen TV quoted Houthi spokesman Mohammed Abdul-Salam as saying.

The Western-backed coalition intervened in Yemen’s war in 2015 to unseat the Houthis and restore the internationally-recognised government in exile.

Riyadh has accused the Houthis of using the port to smuggle Iranian-made weapons, including missiles — accusations denied by the group and Tehran. (Reporting by Dahlia Nehme in Dubai, Stephen Kalin in Riyadh, Omar Fahmy in Cairo; Editing by Andrew Bolton and Daniel Wallis)


Saudi crown prince heads to White House and Silicon Valley

Promoting the image of a new Saudi Arabia, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman arrives Monday in Washington on a cross-country trip to court government officials, Silicon Valley technology companies, investors and one of his biggest fans: President Donald Trump.

He is a prince on a mission and in a hurry.

The 32-year-old heir to the Saudi throne already has curried favor with the Trump administration, winning over the president and his family, and played a key role in restoring the desert kingdom to favored-ally status after years of tension under President Barack Obama.


Israeli officials meet Qatari, Saudi and UAE counterparts at White House

Israeli national security officials sat around the same table on Tuesday morning with their counterparts from Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, Oman and the United Arab Emirates, discussing a dire humanitarian situation unfolding in the Gaza Strip.

The summit on Gaza, called by Jared Kushner, the US president’s son-in-law and senior adviser on Middle East peace, as well as Jason Greenblatt, his special representative for international negotiations, marks an unprecedented moment for Israeli diplomacy, as their dialogue with officials from Arab states is publicly recognized for the first time.

The Trump administration planned the meeting over the course of several weeks and released a list of attendees the morning of the summit, which also included officials from Egypt, Jordan, Canada and various European countries.