Last week we saw the fall of one figure from the B Team, John Bolton. Since than Israel had its second scrap elections and it brought even worse results for Netanyahu than the first one few months ago. By the last result in time of writing Netanyahu and his allies are two seats behind the main rival, meaning the second B is on the way to fall. Yet the results are not as grim in either cases, since Washington still has Pompeo, and surely a new PM in Tel Aviv won’t make drastic change in Israel’s regional role. It is fact another B player, who is still standing, but in a position worse than any other. That is Muḥammad ibn Salmān himself, as the Saudi Kingdom is sinking in a huge crisis. On 13 September 2019 the Yemenis hit the biggest oil reserves of the Aramco at the bank of the Persian Gulf with ten drones, which is a big slap on the face for the Americans as well. Thought since than Riyadh and Washington started to question, whether indeed the al-Ḥūtīs hit them and started to blame Iran, the case is both increasingly embarrassing, both brings closer the fall of the Saudi Crown Prince.

            Since the Saudi Defense Ministry held its great lecture on the Iranian implications over the Aramco hit, the Saudi side is so infuriated and desperate to explain the case that one almost left to sorry them. Because the accusations really heated up after Pompeo made a trip to Riyadh. Now it is curious whether the Americans are just explaining themselves and show a symbolic support, or Pompeo is following the footsteps of Bolton and push the kingdom into a track it surely does not wish to follow. The implications, either the original story is true about the Yemenis, or the American-Saudi version on the Iranians, are in fact so great that might prove eventually a game changer and a great victory for the Axis of Resistance. One might feel now that the tension is heating up once again between Washington and Tehran, but Trump little space to wonder. Since he pointed out that they surely support their Saudi allies and the situation is very serious, it is still not like the Americans themselves would have been hit. Meaning? Meaning that they will cry the wolf, but under no circumstances will go to war so close to the elections.

            It is important to look into these details to see how deep the Axis of Resistance managed to hit their foe, how much the Russians manage to rub salt in the wound for the Americans, and just how desperate is the situation for the Saudis now. However, seeing the shock and the confusion in the pro-Saudi camp, it is also fitting to point out some prime examples of how the media warfare is fought in our age. The hit was big enough to point out some of the most critical weaknesses of the myth built around the invincibility of the West, which in one sudden stroke became obvious and had to be explained. And in explanation maneuvers the good old techniques of the media warfare once again showed its prime capabilities.


What we know and what is claimed?

            In this attack actually two sites were hit in the same day. The oil fields of Baqīq and Hurayṣ, all along the same pipeline connecting the Persian Gulf with the Red Sea. On 14 September the official spokesman for the Yemeni Army and Popular Committees took responsibility for the attack, claiming that it was preluded by intelligence operations and with the help of locals. On 18, to direct response to the American accusations denying the Yemeni involvement the same Colonel Yaḥyā Sarī‘ held a press conference explaining the details of the attack. It revealed some of the details, including the drones used in the attack, and threatened the Emirates once again.

            The same day the Saudi spokesman of the Coalition, Turkī al-Mālikī held an English press conference, putting all the blame on Iran, and giving an image that the matter is of international concern, trying to pull bigger foreign support for their cause. He falsely claimed that the attacks were targeting civilians in Saudi. In fact satellite images revealed that the attacks were conducted with such precision that did not even harm the workers’ compounds on the site. The Saudi side claimed with complete certainty that Iranian missiles were used, even presenting pictures of drone wreckages, but very little tangible evidence was given on the validity of these claims, nor any explanation was given why the Saudi defense performed so purely.

            The attack in fact was severe. Assessment hold that this cut the Saudi output by half and the amount is equal to some 6% of the global oil production. These two sites are the biggest in the kingdom – the third being the previously already hit aš-Šība field -, Baqīq producing 7 million barrels a day, while and Hurayṣ 1,5 million. The matter, however, is more severe by two other facts. The reserves in these sites are almost exclusively meant for Western markets, and the pipeline is the main lifeline for he Saudi economy in case the Straits of Hormuz is closed. Meaning in case of war with Iran.

            It is very telling that very little is confirmed or proven, regardless of the satellite capabilities and military presence of the US in the region. Especially compared to the confidence with which the West pushing the story. And still their biggest argument is that the Yemenis were incapable of doing this. Should an attack really came from Iran or Iraq, it is more than curious why the Americans have no definitive proof on that, only some claimed wreckage.

            Tensions only really heated up, when Pompeo arrived to Saudi Arabia on 18 September, the same day of the Saudi press conference, who practically took over the handling of the story. He certainly tries to prove himself now, as Bolton left, but it is doubtful how far will Trump let him go. In fact the accusations are big, Trump uses his usually harsh rhetoric, but apart of the major media campaign it is in fact little what we really know, and as the Iranians rightly pointed out, it is unprecedented to blame a country, and attribute actions of war to it based on suspicion.


Embarrassing or catastrophic?

            All what we see from here are two possible explanations for who is the real culprit behind the Aramco attacks. It worths to see both, since either way, the clear hit by the Axis of Resistance is obvious, and both explanations point to such high level of political thinking and strategical planing that it might have surprised the West more, than the exact technical details of the military operation.

            The first possibility is what is claimed by the al-Ḥūtīs, namely that they performed this hit with ten drones, with the help of “local virtuous people”. If that is the case that means utter Saudi military and intelligence failure. First of all, this is far from being the first time for such an attack. The al-Ḥūtīs so far hit close to Riyadh the pipeline connecting the Persian Gulf with the Red Sea, as we detailed it in June, when such operations were mostly concentrating on the Emirates. A year before they managed to hit the airport of Dubai. After that, when there were intense talks of gradual Emirati withdrawal from Yemen, the al-Ḥūtīs concentrated their drone activities to the Saudi al-Abhā civilian airport and a military one in Ğāzān, resulting in the gradual closer of both as they were incapable of protecting them. Since no one denied that the Yemenis did these, we can accept them as fact, which is alone sufficient proof that they were capable to perform this attack as well. The Aramco hit is in fact perfectly in line with the previous attack, since the last time such event happened, it was in mid August 2019, when they managed to hit the aš-Šība oil field at the Emirati border. No one questioned their role at that time either. That time the Anṣār Allah Movement[1] promised that the next target will be more vital, should the Saudis not cease their hostility against Yemen. Since then the Saudis conducted wide range of attacks in Yemen to dig out and destroy the possible launch sites and they claimed that the operation was a complete success. If the attack on Aramco did in fact came from the al-Ḥūtīs that is a huge embarrassment of their intelligence capabilities, since clearly they could uproot the Yemeni resistance’s most potent deterrent. However, if that is the case, it shows that the Saudis by buying the latest American military technology are just wasting their money, since that cannot defend them. That caused shockwaves of anger in the Saudi media, as they felt themselves vulnerable despite the latest American military hardware and promises of protection. The the American implications don’t stop here. It is common knowledge how deeply the American services are engaged helping the Saudi counterparts, both in Yemen specifically, and in all endeavors generally, yet with all their help they could prevent the renewed attacks. And here we are not talking only talking in the narrow sense of thwarting the actual missiles launched, but the uncovering of how the Anṣār Allah took hold of such precision weapons. If they produce them, as they claim, where are the facilities? If the Iranians provide them with these weapons, as the Saudis claim for years now, then where is the evidence? And how come that regardless all the actual sea and land blockade the Iranians managed to smuggles such weapons in, and seemingly in a quite substantial quantity.

            It is indeed very probable that the Iranians provide some level of technical help, but that does not mitigate the gravity of the question that the Saudis, with all the given American and Western help, cannot prevent this, and cannot prove it either. Since so far there hasn’t been one single case of apprehended smugglers or any sort of knowledge transfer.

            If the Yemeni claim is true, however, that they themselves managed to improve their capabilities to that level the case is even more embarrassing. Not only for Saudi Arabia, but to all the countries, which unilaterally rely on Western technology. Because with all the money spent on the military, the Saudis haven’t managed to develop anything on their own, only to buy hardware. But it seems that the Yemenis managed to supersede this in their most desperate hours, and very effectively. But even if all their weapons came from Iran, the same assessment is standing, since the Iranian military expenditure is far behind the Saudi’s, yet seem to function much more effectively, and they can even spare some of their production to their proxies, regardless the hardest possible economic sanctions. Which all question the viability of utter reliance on Western equipment and raise the prestige of the Iranians.

            But what if the Saudis and the Americans are right, and the latest attack on the Aramco came from Iran and Iranian positions in Iraq? First of all, so far we were presented with zero evidence for that. So far the strongest argument of the Saudis – and even the Americans – to blame the Iranians was that the Anṣār Allah does not have the capability for that. Was that their conviction, it is strange why they didn’t push argument before, as they don’t even raise it now against the older hits. But for now, let us suppose they are right this time, and indeed the Iranians caught them by surprise! That is the total intelligence and air defense meltdown, not only for the Saudis, but for the Kuwaitis – who also did not manage to register any drone activity – and even more for the Americans. After all, they are there in Iraq and have substantial intelligence capabilities there. Also they are the ones with the biggest amount of surveillance satellites over the region. Yet regardless all of that, they cannot show any proof for the attack, nor for the buildup. The embarrassing in this idea is that the Americans and the Saudis, while trying desperately to prove a case against Iran, they themselves demonstrate the best that the Iranians can effectively outmaneuver them. That should take any wide range military consideration off the table against Iran, since if they could perform this, who knows what other aces they have up in their sleeves. Though it is true that such a message is just what some Iranian circles wanted to deliver.

            The intelligence failure is present, however, in a very different level as well. The Yemenis claimed that they managed to deliver this blow with the help of “local virtuous people”. Once again, this is not the first time they claim such thing, and so far the Saudis has little response to that, but this time the hit is so big that all aspects need to be covered. The possibility that the Yemenis got help from inside of Saudi Arabia, though might just be a psychological trick to unnerve Riyadh, if true, can possibly mean two things. Either genuine local help, or some agents of the Axis of Resistance, whether they are Iranians of Arabs, managed to infiltrate the Saudis state. If the later is true, which the Americans suggest, is once again a huge embarrassment for the American services assisting the Saudis. Yet this angle is less mysterious as we have at least some intel to work with. On 14 September 2019, in an interview in RT Arabic’s Is’al Aktar! (Ask more!) program, Muḥammad al-Buhaytī, member of the Anṣār Allah’s Political Committee, clarified the previous notion and pointed to two major components, though without namely anyone specifically. The “people of Nağd and al-Ḥiğāz, who became victims from Muḥammad ibn Salmān’s policies”, and some of the Saudi royal family, like Walīd ibn Ṭalāl[2]. Al-Buhaytī claimed that these offended people – so not the local population in the border area, practical Yemenis – are in contact with the al-Ḥūtīs and they provide help.

            Once again, it is very hard to decide, which possibility if more embarrassing. Whether the Iranians could infiltrate so well into Saudi Arabia, and keep working seemingly undisturbed throughout the whole summer, or that members of the Saudi royal family is helping Yemenis against the present leadership.


Some fine journalism!

            Undeniably this hit on Aramco managed to hit a nerve globally, which produced an unprecedented media attention. Sadly, such interest was seldom to appear in the years of was for the Yemeni victims of the Saudi war machine. The number of articles soured and even on daily programs, like the mentioned one on RT Arabic rolled over nothing else, but the different angles of their event. And that is when the good old media apparatus got into action once again, mostly defending the embarrassed Americans, and their seemingly feisty stance, posing dozens of false narratives and accusations without any basis.

            One of the reasons, however, why it is important to see the Arabic programs on the question is to see how different is the narrative in the Middle East. As for one example, on of the most obvious contradiction, which never comes up in the Western media was raised by al-Buhaytī in the same program. Officially the Saudis invaded Yemen to response the government they view as legal, and to fight the Iranian presence there. Now they claim it was not the Yemenis, but the Iranians hit attacked them, which logically should imply that at least some of the previous attacks were due to Tehran. Then why are they fighting in Yemen, instead of attacking Iran directly? That, of course, was not answered in the program by the Saudi counterpart.

            Once we point to the media warfare we not only want to point to the mainstream American papers, thought in our age so many of the official experts rely on them unconditionally. These are of course many, and with the hundred of articles they make part of the work by engraving certain unproven accusations as facts, and some false narrative. But in critical cases, like this one, it reaches far better, and more prestigious papers as well, much farther – at least seemingly – from the Western government media mainframe. One prime example is Asia Times, which gained prestige by the high number of former or actual Asian diplomats and experts – mostly Indian and Pakistani ones -, and local analysts with in-depth knowledge. The names and the background of the authors, even in case of more rare Western contributors are usually found attached to this name. In this particular case, however, it fell victim to similar attempt, where direct American, pro-government opinion ruled the tone. A certain Stephen Bryen started pour articles one after the other in the Aramco hit. On 15 September he only suggested that the attack came not from Yemen, but from Iran directly. Yet, on 18 September he was already sure of that, and was even evaluating the possible explanations for this scenario. He starts his assessment with the following:


            “Iran successfully attacked two oil facilities in Saudi Arabia, not the Houthi rebels who falsely claimed credit. My evaluation is this: The Iranian attack came from two different launch sites and employed two different weapons systems

            So he starts with a statement, without any proof, and starts to build his evaluation on it. That would be fine for an opinion based article, was it ever stated that is such, and not facts provided to the reader. Since all along the article Bryen talks in statements, not suggestions. He follows that the used weapons were the Ābābīl-2 drone[3], proving he speaks not Persian or Arabic – and the Qods-1 long range missile, which he himself states don’t have the capability to reach such distant target on their own. That should lead him to a contradiction and a re-evaluation, but his answer is that there must have been local Iranian agents, how helped the missiles guidance. For which there is no any evidence, and not even the Saudis claimed such a thing. His assessment goes into deeper contradictions, when he suggest that the operations was only a massage, but it didn’t want to cause real damage, since the oil tanks did not burn. Yet not only in all the footages the huge flames were plain site, but even the cover photo of the article shows this very thing. Carefully read, the whole article is just a suggestion built on suggestion, originally based on a statement, without any proof, and his final conclusion is that the American and Saudi intelligence performed purely, having failed to predict or to prevent what they got to know later on.

            The real point of the set articles, however, came on 21 September, with the bombastic title: “Israeli Iron Dome system needed for Saudi defense”. The author completely oversteps in the whole article the very obvious problem that is is very hard for a country to buy weapons from a state it does not recognize to exist. That is very telling about the American mindset, which is driving the Saudi politics in these days. Because in this mentality the Gulf-Israeli cooperation is not only a fact, which is indeed very lightly concealed, but still vehemently denied by the Saudis, but it is even pushing the Gulf further into this seemingly unnatural alliance. That is the real Saudi problem here, which is so plain to see in this third article. The Americans led them down in intelligence and military hardware, while they were promising all the possible help and pushing them into a war with Iran. Now, that it failed and they even acknowledge this, their solution is the purchase of even more hardware, by now even from the Israelis, claiming to be perfect, yet in a number of case it performed very poorly against the Syrians, when they hit the occupied Ğūlān, and against the Palestinian in Haifa.

            But who is Stephen Bryen? That is where the honesty of Asia Times does not fall apart completely, because they themselves have a bio on him. Only this time they preferred not to attach it to the articles, for some reason. Bryen is a former American government official and later entrepreneur in the defense and technology realm. He continuously presents articles on similar, mostly defense technology related topics, mostly to Israeli sites, which are his most common sources.

            This is not a unique case, only a very fitting example. There are hundreds of professional, or semi-professional papers dealing with strategic or regional politics, where similar techniques appear. And that is a very disturbing phenomenon on the press’ credibility.



[1] The official name of the al-Ḥūtīs’ political movement.

[2] One of the biggest and well known Saudi investors in the world. He is partial owner if the Four Seasons hotel chain. He was held in custody briefly under the Saudi Crown Prince’s anti-corruption campaign and only released for a substantial fine, like many other members of the royal family.

[3] Bryen mistakenly puts it Abalil-2. Though in his other articles he uses the proper names as well, mostly in direct quotations, the mistake is remarkable. Since all Iranian weapon terms are talking names, well known Arabic or Persian terms, therefore anyone with proper knowledge of Arabic or Persian wouldn’t have made that mistake.