UN finds Yemen’s Houthis did not carry out Saudi Aramco attack, fingers point to Iran

UN finds Yemen’s Houthis did not carry out Saudi Aramco attack, fingers point to Iran
Following an investigation that took months, the United Nations found Houthis not responsible for an attack on Iran
4 min read
09 January, 2020
A United Nations investigation has found that Yemen's Houthis did not carry out a missile strike on Saudi Arabia's Aramco oil facilities in September, according to a report by the UN sanctions monitors, adding fuel to claims that Iran was responsible.

The US, European leaders and Saudi Arabia blamed Iran for the attack on 14 September on the Saudi Aramco oil plants in Abqaiq and Khurais.

The report by independent UN experts to the Security Council Yemen sanctions committee said: "Despite their claims to the contrary, the Houthi forces did not launch the attacks on Abqaiq and Khurais on 14 September 2019."

The UN investigators said they doubted that the drones and land attack cruise missiles used in the 14 September attack "have a sufficient range to have been launched from Yemeni territory under the control of the Houthis".

"The panel notes that Abqaiq and Khurais were approached respectively from a north/northwestern and north/northeastern direction, rather than from the south, as one would expect in the case of a launch from Yemeni territory," Reuters reported.

The investigators, who monitor sanctions on Yemen, also said they do not believe that "those comparatively sophisticated weapons were developed and manufactured in Yemen".

They were not tasked with identifying who was responsible for the Saudi attack.

Tehran denied any involvement.

Houthis insist they are responsible [Getty]
"The Houthi forces continue to receive military support in the form of assault rifles, rocket propelled grenade launchers, anti tank guided missiles, as well as more sophisticated cruise missile systems," the report found.

"Some of those weapons have technical characteristics similar to arms manufactured in Iran," it said.

Iran to blame? 

Last month a US probe into the missile strike claimed to have found evidence that the raid originated north of the kingdom.

The United States Ambassador to the UN, Kelly Craft, told the UN Security Council meeting on Iran that only Iran has the capability to carry out such complex attacks as those on the two oil facilities.

The weapons used in the raid did not have sufficient range to come from Houthi territory, and the drones had "numerous characteristics in common with Iranian designs".

She added that the damage inflicted on the oil facilities "shows that the attack came from the north, not from the south, as you would expect if the Houthis were responsible.

The Saudi minister of state for foreign affairs, Adel al-Jubeir, signalled in September said that Riyadh was waiting for results of UN investigations before announcing how his country would respond.

He has yet to release a statement on the findings of the report.

Evidence is mounting that Iran was responsible for the attack. In November, Reuters spoke to four people familiar with the event who claimed Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei had approved the attack with strict instructions to avoid hitting civilians or Americans.

Iran rejected the account at the time.

Read More: Yemen in Focus: Houthis stand by Iranian allies after 'criminal' Soleimani killing

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told the Security Council in a separate report on 10 December - on the implementation of an arms embargo and other restrictions on Iran - that the United Nations was "unable to independently corroborate" that missiles and drones used in the attacks "are of Iranian origin".

A proxy war

The report, which was submitted by a panel of experts and will be available to the public next month, comes as fighting intensifies in Yemen between Iran and Saudi Arabia.

The battle ground for a proxy war, Yemen has been battered by fighting between a Saudi-led coalition and the Iran-allied Houthis.

Yemen’s Houthi rebels have joined in recent calls for striking US troops across the region in response to the US drone strike in Baghdad that killed allied commanders.

The rebels slammed the killing of Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani as a war crime in a statement on Friday, saying that the only appropriate response to the assassination would be to expel the !American occupier" from the region.

"The people of the region should realise that their security and stability are subject to proceeding with the liberating project until the expulsion of the American occupier," a statement published last week read.

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