July 31, 2018 Special Dispatch No. 7597

Calls In Saudi Arabia For Firm Measures Against Iran's Attempts To Disrupt Shipping In Bab El-Mandeb

July 31, 2018
Saudi Arabia | Special Dispatch No. 7597

On July 25, 2018, the Iran-aligned Houthi rebels in Yemen attacked two Saudi tankers in the strait of Bab El-Mandeb in the Red Sea. In response to the attack, Saudi Arabia announced it was suspending shipments of oil via the strait "until maritime transit through Bab El-Mandeb is safe," and underlined "the continued threat of the Houthi terrorist militias to the freedom of navigation and world trade in the Red Sea."[1]

The attack by the pro-Iranian Houthis on the Saudi tankers took place alongside threats made by the Iranian regime's announcement that if it will not be possible for Iran to export fuel, Iran will not allow other Gulf countries to do so either.[2] This came against the backdrop of U.S. threats to impose sanctions on Iran, including on its oil exports, to induce Iran to change its policy. Furthermore, in December 2017, the editor of the Iranian daily Kayhan, Hossein Shariatmadari, urged the Houthis in Yemen to attack Saudi oil tankers. He wrote: "From my familiarity with [the Houthi organization] Ansar Allah, [I can predict that] in the near future Saudi oil tankers in the Gulf of Aden will be a target for Ansar Allah. Ansar Allah must attack the Saudi oil tankers in the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea. The value of the lives of millions of the children, the women, and the oppressed people in Yemen is immeasurably higher than the value of Saudi Arabia's oil tankers, and this is the lowest price that they should pay."[3]

Following the Houthi attack on the tankers, many editorials and opinion pieces in the Saudi press stressed that the Iranians were behind it, and called for a forceful response against Iran. The articles stated, inter alia, that the West had made a mistake by refraining, over the years, from punishing Iran for the actions of its various proxies – the Houthis, Hizbullah, Hamas, Islamic Jihad and others – and that its continued silence would constitute a "conspiracy" and "capitulation to blackmail." A Saudi Shura Council member wrote in his newspaper column that the world must decide between securing the shipping lanes and enduring a hike in oil prices. Other articles underscored that Saudi Arabia would continue defending itself and its sovereignty and fighting the Iranian plan in the region.

It should be mentioned that two days before the attack on the tankers, Saudi Ambassador to the U.S. Khalid bin Salman warned, in an article in the English-language Saudi daily Arab News, against adopting a policy of appeasement vis-à-vis Iran like that adopted vis-à-vis the Nazi regime on the eve of World War II.[4]

The following are excerpts from Saudi articles on the Bab El-Mandeb attack.

Saudi Daily: Continued Silence In The Face Of Houthi Crimes Means Succumbing To Blackmail

An editorial in the Saudi daily Al-Yawm stated: "By its decision to temporarily suspend its oil shipments through the international Bab El-Mandeb strait... Saudi Arabia has conveyed a clear warning to the entire world, that it must end its silence over this piracy [of the Houthis], who are trying to export their internal crisis in Yemen to the countries of the region... The Houthi terrorists' [policy] of 'exporting the crisis' is the illegitimate offspring of the [Iranian] model of exporting the revolution. [This model is] adopted by the Turbans [i.e., Ayatollahs] of Tehran [with the aim]... of interfering in the affairs of the countries of the region and undermining their security and stability, and as a miserable cover for their urge for control and strong-arm [tactics]...

"The continued international silence in the face of this situation constitutes a conspiracy and capitulation to blackmail... which places in real danger the most crucial region, considered to be the world's economic life-line... A deterring punishment is unavoidable.

"The [Saudi] Kingdom, along with all the countries of the region, will do everything can to restore vitality and calm to this [trade] artery, the most important in the region and the world. Just as it rejects blackmail and threats, Saudi Arabia will realize its sovereign right to defend its borders in the land, sea and air, by every means, and it will not hesitate, along with the Arab coalition, to support the legitimate [authorities] in Yemen and the Yemeni people's entitlement to regain the rights that have been stolen [from them] by the terrorist Houthi groups."[5]

Saudi Daily: The Efforts To Crush The Head Of The Iranian Serpent Will Continue As Long As Iran Continues Exporting Its Revolution

A July 27, 2018 editorial in the Al-Riyadh daily said: "The terrorist attack perpetrated by the Houthi militias against a Saudi tanker sailing in international waters west of Yemen's Al-Hudaydah port is another notch in these militias' record of aggression against Yemen and against the neighboring countries. [This activity is carried out] in the service of the Ayatollah regime's plan to gain hegemony in the region.

Iran's aggression carried out by means of [its] agents in Yemen [i.e., the Houthis] proves the importance of the call of the coalition [i.e., the Arab coalition fighting in Yemen] to confront the threat that the Safavi [i.e., Iranian] sectarian plan in Yemen poses to the freedom of navigation through the Red Sea and the strategic strait of Bab El-Mandeb. This [plan] may have dire implications for global trade in general, and therefore a firmer international position is needed in order to deter Tehran and halt its destructive plots...

"Iran, which is a living embodiment of the violation of international law, will not stop issuing threats to close the Strait of Hormuz in the Arabian Gulf and to take over Bab El-Mandeb, in a bid to place the world in a difficult position in which Iran is the strong side, dictating the rules of the game...

"The sincere Saudi and Arab efforts to crush the head of the Iranian serpent will not cease as long as the Rule of the Jurisprudent [i.e., the Iranian regime] keeps insisting on turning the region into a theatre of crises and wars, [and as long as Iran] does not discard its plan to export the Khomeini revolution and stop spreading the sectarianism and the culture of hatred that placed it in the list of state-sponsors of terror."[6]

Senior Saudi Journalist: Iran Will Stop Its Crimes Only If Forced To Pay For Them

Senior Saudi journalist 'Abd Al-Rahman Al-Rashed, former editor of the London-based Saudi daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat and former director of Al-Arabiya TV, wrote:[7]   

"Iran’s agents in the region, like Hizbullah in Lebanon, Hamas in Gaza, Asa'ib Ahl Al-Haq in Iraq and the Houthis in Yemen, are practically Iran’s military whom Iran spends massive amounts of money on and whom it has been training and arming for decades.

"The West made a mistake [in] dealing with the Iranian game at the beginning of the conflict with Iran. The U.S. in particular made this mistake, considering it’s the country that is most involved in the region, [because] it yielded and dealt with Iran’s agents as independent organizations although it knew they were linked to Iran. It did not [fail to] deal with them because [it was] unware of the nature of [their] relation[s with Iran], but to avoid a confrontation with Iran...

"When the Lebanese Hezbollah Party abducted and killed some Americans and Westerners in Beirut in the 1980s, Western governments requested Iran’s and Syria’s intervention [as] mediators [to] release the [captives]. These practices established the rules of the game in a wrong manner that enhanced Iran’s influence and cost it little...

"If the West had, in the 1980s and 1990s, viewed the practices of these organizations as directly affiliated with Iran, [today] there wouldn’t be Hezbollah, Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq and others.
"Iran was not held accountable for killing American people in Beirut or killing Americans in the Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia.[8] It was not held accountable for its bloody attacks in Paris’ streets or the hijacking of planes like the... TWA flight.[9]

"Tehran is now repeating in West Yemen what it used to do in South Lebanon. The Houthi Movement is an Iranian organization that takes orders from Tehran. This attack on Bab al-Mandeb [realizes] the threat which Iranian commanders made in response to [recent] White House decisions. They said they [would] obstruct oil exports [via] the Gulf. Iran’s The statements of General Qassem Soleimani, commander of the Revolutionary Guards [Force] Qods Brigade, are a mere distraction from the real scheme, which is to appoint the Houthis to carry out this task on his behalf. As for Iran, it will not dirty its hands with such operations...

"The Iranians will not stop propagating chaos, spreading terrorism and interfering in Lebanon, Syria and Iraq unless the Tehran regime feels it’s being held accountable for its organizations’ practices and directly paying the price of their crimes."

The UN Security Council approaches protecting "maritime strait security" at a snail's pace (Source: Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, London, July 27, 2018)

Saudi Shura Council Member: The World Must Secure The Shipping Lanes Or Else Suffer Rising Oil Prices

In his column in the Al-Watan daily, Saudi Shura Council member Hadi Al-Yami wrote under the title "The Kingdom Has Conveyed a Clear Message to All": "The Saudi decision [to suspend oil shipments through Bab El-Mandeb] was firm and clear, and conveyed many indications and meanings, chief of them [a message] to the international powers and bodies, and especially to the UN… that they must take responsibility and do their duty of compelling everyone to respect the international [shipping] lanes and keep them from being used in various political conflicts. The [Saudi] Kingdom, although able to defend its interests, deter its opponents and confront its enemies, will not do the work of others in defending their interests if they do not do this [themselves]. It will not shoulder alone the burden of [keeping] the world markets stable...

"The world is paying the price of its divided positions on Iran, as some European countries are eager to maintain their relations with Tehran and oppose America's firm action against the dubious nuclear deal, thereby prioritizing temporary economic interests over global security and peace...

"We should note that the attempted attack on the Saudi tanker is the second such attack this year, and was timed to co-occur with the increased exchange of recriminations and threats by Washington and Tehran. The first attack, on January 20, came amid a similar atmosphere...

"Moreover, in early August, the American economic sanctions on Iran will come into force, and they may intensify [even further] in November. Therefore, it cannot be ruled out that, by signaling to its Houthi branch to carry out this attack, the Ayatollah regime [in Iran] meant to convey a threatening message to Washington.  If this is the case... it is the worst possible message, for it was conveyed in a way that cannot be agreed to, and will cause the whole world to stand with the U.S. as it acts to deter Iran. The security of the world economy is not just an American interest, but is a value that nobody will allow to threaten.

"Whatever Iran's intention in [perpetrating this] act of terror, and whatever the consequences and ramifications [of this act], Saudi Arabia has conveyed a clear message to all and presented the international community with only two options: to fulfil its duty of securing this international waterway and eliminating any threat to it, or face the consequences, which may include a rise in oil prices and an uncertain oil supply to the global markets, as well as the unrest this could cause."[10]


[1] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), July 25, 2018.

[2] See Iranian President Hassan Rouhani's statements in Switzerland, ISNA (Iran), July 3, 2018.

[3] Tasnim (Iran), December 12, 2017.

[5] Al-Yawm (Saudi Arabia), July 27, 2018.

[6] Al-Riyadh (Saudi Arabia), July 27, 2018.

[7], July 27, 2018. The original English has been lightly edited for clarity.

[8] The reference is to the 1998 truck bombing of a complex in the Saudi city of Khobar that housed U.S. troops.

[9] The reference is to the 1985 hijacking of a TWA flight from Athens to London via Rome.

[10] Al-Watan (Saudi Arabia), July 27, 2018.

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