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Houthi Non-State Actors Attack Saudi Arabian Oil Facilities with UAVs

On 14 September 2019, Yemen’s Houthi rebels attacked two plants at the heart of Saudi Arabia’s oil industry, including the world’s biggest petroleum processing facility, with armed unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). This is the latest in a series of Houthi missile and drone strikes on Saudi Arabia that are targeting oilfields and oil pumping stations, disrupting output and exports. A Houthi spokesman claimed that drones hit refineries at the Saudi sites, which are over 1,000 km from the Yemeni capital Sanaa, and pledged a widening of assaults.

Recent events in Saudi Arabia again demonstrate specific concerns that Acamar has been repeatedly highlighting in the past: increased use of missile and UAV technology by non-state actors, the rapid sophistication of non-state actors in the fields of missile and UAV attack capabilities, and the vulnerability of critical infrastructure, especially oil facilities, against attacks with UAVs or missiles.

Within a few years, the Houthis have been able to attain and develop capable missile technology that enabled them to constantly enhance the ranges and precision of their ballistic missiles. They have further engaged in drone strikes on military, civilian, and economic targets.

Acamar has identified this trend in the past and warned of the devastating effects a drone attack could have on a country’s infrastructure and industry, especially the oil industry. It is important to recognize that many rogue groups or countries will study and view the Houthi attacks on Saudi Arabia as an example to copy. It certainly does not go unnoticed that within minutes, the economic output of a country could be severely affected.

In the past, Acamar produced a case study for the country of Guyana, in which it explicitly pointed to the problem of drone attacks on oil facilities and the crippling effect this would have for its upcoming economy. Venezuela, which claims 70% of Guyana’s territory as its own, has repeatedly threatened Guyana and its future development as an oil producing country. Within minutes, Venezuela or any other actor could cripple Guyana’s economic future. Venezuela’s military manufacturer CAVIM produces the Iranian Mohajer-2 UAV. It is operated by the Venezuelan Air Force as the Arpia and can be armed or used as suicide strike variant.

Read more about Acamar’s analysis on the Guyana/Venezuela dispute on our Publications page: Venezuela and Guyana: The South China Sea Situation of the Western Hemisphere.

See our updated reaction to this attack here.


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