Military Capabilities

Cruise missiles suspected in Saudi oil infrastructure attacks

16 September 2019

Ansar Allah displayed both the Quds cruise missile and the Samad-3 long-range UAV (background) for the first time on 7 July, claiming they are locally developed weapons. Source: Ansar Allah

There are indications that the 14 September attack on two oil facilities in Saudi Arabia were carried out using cruise missiles launched from Iraq or possibly Iran, US officials told journalists on the following day.

The US government released annotated Digital Globe (now Maxar) satellite imagery showing the aftermath of the attacks. The images were labelled as showing approximately 17 impact points at Abqaiq and at least another two at Khurais.

A senior US administration official said the impact points showed the weapons approached from the west northwest, rather than Yemen, as claimed by the Iranian-backed Yemeni rebel group Ansar Allah (Houthis). “It is very difficult to see how these things could have come from anywhere but Iran or Iraq,” CNN quoted the official as saying.

The official also said there was Saudi intelligence suggesting cruise missiles were involved but said the US had not yet corroborated that information.

Reuters and Dow Jones ran similar reports seemingly based on the same briefing.

“There is reason to believe that we know the culprit, are locked and loaded depending on verification, but are waiting to hear from the Kingdom [of Saudi Arabia] as to who they believe was the cause of this attack, and under what terms we would proceed!” President Donald Trump tweeted later on 15 September.

Tehran has denied any involvement.

Ansar Allah claimed it carried out the attack using 10 unmanned aircraft and presented it as a continuation of its strikes against Saudi Aramco oil facilities, noting the one carried out against the Shaybah complex near the border with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on 17 August.

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