President Donald Trump on Saturday offered U.S. support for Saudi Arabia’s self-defense in a phone call hours after drone strikes left swaths of Saudi oil fields aflame and disrupted global energy production.
Two sites, including the world’s largest oil processing facility and a massive Saudi oil field, were hit by explosives, leaving a smoke trail reportedly visible from space.
Yemen’s Houthi rebels claimed responsibility for the attack, part of a yearslong war led by the Saudis against the Iran-backed group. Earlier this month a Saudi-led coalition launched airstrikes on a Houthi detention center, leaving at least 100 dead and dozens more injured. It was the Saudi side’s deadliest attack so far this year, according to the Yemen Data Project.
The state-run Saudi Press Agency was first to report the call between American and Saudi leadership.
“Violent actions against civilian areas and infrastructure vital to the global economy only deepen conflict and mistrust,” the White House said in a statement. “The United States Government is monitoring the situation and remains committed to ensuring global oil markets are stable and well supplied.”
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo pinned the Houthi drone strikes directly on Iran, currently at odds with the U.S. as a nuclear arms deal reached by the Obama administration has steadily unraveled in the Trump era.
In a pair of tweets, Pompeo called on the international community “to publicly and unequivocally condemn Iran’s attacks” while hinting at possible consequences for Tehran.
It was not immediately clear whether the drone strikes led to any injuries or deaths at the two oil fields. Seeking to assure global markets, Saudi officials told The Wall Street Journal that the facilities would return to normal production levels Monday.
The International Energy Agency, which represents top energy-consuming nations, said it was monitoring the situation closely.
The deadly conflict has sparked one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises. In Yemen ― the Arab world’s poorest country ― 10 million people are “one step away from famine,” the United Nations announced earlier this year.
Nearly 100,000 have died since a Saudi-led coalition began battling the Houthi rebels in early 2015, months after Houthis seized the Yemeni capital of Sanaa.
Trump has faced strong criticism at home for his chummy relationship with the Saudi Crown Prince ― who is accused of human rights abuses including the brutal 2018 murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
The call to the Crown Price, commonly referred to by his initials, MBS, came just a few days after the U.S. said it would release the name of a Saudi national involved in carrying out the 9/11 terrorist attacks to families of the victims.