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Editorial: Countries should deal with attacks on Saudi Arabia oil facilities calmly

  • September 18, 2019
  • , The Japan News , 8:26 p.m.
  • English Press

They were despicable attacks that will further heighten tensions in the Middle East, while also adversely affecting the global economy. The countries concerned need to find out the whole truth about the attacks and make diplomatic efforts to prevent the situation from deteriorating.


Oil-related facilities were attacked in Saudi Arabia and as a result, the production of crude oil, totaling 5.7 million barrels a day, was temporarily suspended. The suspended output accounts for half of the daily crude oil output in the country, or more than 5 percent of the world’s crude oil supply. Such large-scale attacks on major oil facilities, considered the mainstay for an oil-producing country, are unprecedented.


Houthi rebels, an armed group in the neighboring country of Yemen, have claimed responsibility for drone attacks on the oil facilities. In Yemen, a civil war is being fought between a transitional government led by Yemeni President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi and the Houthi movement, strife that has taken on an aspect of a proxy war between Saudi Arabia, which supports the Hadi administration, and Iran, which backs the Houthi rebels.


Therefore, Saudi Arabia and the United States have strengthened their suspicion that Iran was behind the latest attacks on the facilities. A statement from the Saudi Arabian foreign ministry said “Iranian weapons were used in the attacks.” Iran has not admitted to involvement.


Which forces launched the attacks, and from where and for what purposes? It is feared that each of the countries concerned will make assertions that suit its own purposes. It is vital to gather concrete pieces of evidence, clarify the responsibility for the attacks and deal with them level-headedly.


Keep pursuing dialogue


U.S. President Donald Trump has said, “I don’t want war.” It is appropriate for him to show a cautious stance on taking military action against Iran.


Trump has dismissed hawkish presidential advisor John Bolton, who opposed Washington’s holding dialogue with Tehran, and had been exploring ways to hold summit talks with Iran. It is important for the United States to continue looking for an opportunity to hold dialogue and ease tensions with Iran.


Iran, for its part, must wield its clout regarding the Houthis, while refraining from taking actions that would escalate regional tensions further.


It is worrisome that the prospects for Saudi Arabia’s oil facilities to return to normal remain opaque, raising crude oil prices sharply.


Saudi Arabia is the biggest source of crude oil for Japan, which relies on the oil-producing country for nearly 40 percent of its total imports of crude oil. Should the recovery of Saudi Arabia’s oil production be delayed, with crude oil prices hovering at high levels for a protracted period, the prices of gasoline and other fuels will rise. It is feared that increases in the cost of transportation and the like will increase the burden on companies and general households.


If the prices of liquefied natural gas, used for thermal power generation, are affected as well, electricity rates will also go up.


Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Isshu Sugawara emphasized that Japan has secured oil reserves sufficient to cover more than 230 days’ domestic consumption. The ministry intends to release some of the stockpile in line with supply and demand, thus maintaining the domestic supply.


The government needs to make absolutely sure that energy sources will be stably supplied, while keeping an eye on the trend of crude oil prices.

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