(CNSNews.com) – Saudi leaders on Thursday blamed Iran for recent drone attacks by its Houthi allies on oil installations in the kingdom, and a newspaper close to the government said in a front-page editorial it was time for “surgical” strikes against the Iranian regime.
Arab News said the pipeline attacks and damage caused to oil tankers near the Persian Gulf early this week “were aimed at subverting the world economy by hitting directly at the lifeline of today’s world of commerce.”
“Tehran should not get away with any more intimidation, or be allowed to threaten global stability,” it said, calling for “surgical strikes” as the next “logical step.”
“In the considered view of this newspaper, there has to be deterrent and punitive action in order for Iran to know that no sinister act will go unpunished; that action, in our opinion, should be a calculated surgical strike.”
The Saudi daily did not directly say it thought the U.S. should carry out such strikes, but suggested as much, recalling the U.S. cruise missile strikes in 2017 and 2018 ordered by President Trump in response to chemical weapons attacks blamed on the Assad regime.
“The U.S. has set a precedent, and it had a telling effect: The Trump strikes on Syria when the Assad regime used Sarin gas against its people,” it said.
Arab News also recalled that more than a decade ago, then King Abdullah had called on the U.S., in reference to Iran, to “cut off the head of the snake.”
(According to a classified cable from the U.S. Embassy in Riyadh, released by WikiLeaks, a Saudi ambassador told a U.S. diplomat in 2008 that Abdullah had frequently urged “the U.S. to attack Iran and so put an end to its nuclear weapons program.” The ambassador said the king had urged the U.S. “to cut off the head of the snake.” Abdullah died in 2015.)
The Saudi and Iranian regimes do not hide their loathing for each other, and on Thursday the Saudi foreign and deputy defense ministers accused Iran of using its Houthi allies in Yemen to attack the kingdom.
Saudi warplanes on Thursday carried out fresh air strikes against Houthi targets in Yemen, after the Iranian-backed Shi’ite militia claimed responsibility for two drone attacks Tuesday on the kingdom’s crucial East-West pipeline.
The pipeline carries from the oil-rich Eastern Province to the Red Sea, as an alternative to shipping oil through the Persian Gulf and its Strait of Hormuz chokepoint.
The pipeline was briefly shut down but was reported to be fully operating again on Thursday.
A Saudi-led coalition first launched air strikes against the Houthis in 2015, in support of Yemen’s internationally-recognized government. The conflict has been costly and triggered a grave humanitarian crisis, and U.S. lawmakers have been trying without success to end U.S. military support for the Saudi campaign.
Deputy Defense Minister Khalid Bin Salman said on Twitter the drone attacks showed that the Houthis were “merely a tool that Iran’s regime uses to implement its expansionist agenda in the region.”
He charged that the attacks on the pipeline were “ordered by the regime in Tehran.”
Khalid, a former ambassador to Washington, is a son of King Salman and younger brother of the heir apparent, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is also defense minister.
On his Twitter feed, Foreign Minister Adel bin Ahmed Al-Jubeir said the Houthis were “an indivisible part of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and subject to the IRGC’s orders.”
The stepped-up rhetoric from Riyadh comes at a time of increased tensions in the region, following U.S. warnings of threatening behavior by Iran and its proxies, directed at U.S. interests and possibly at U.S. troops in Iraq.
The administration then sped up the deployment of an aircraft carrier strike group to the region, and strategic bombers were sent to Qatar.