U.S., Saudi Security Forces Failed To Detect Attack On Oil Facilities; Drone Swarm Was Part Of A Targeted Strike Which Strongly Suggests Iranian Origin; Saudi Iron Dome In The Offing?
The title above is from a September 17, 2019 article in the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) by numerous authors. Despite a fairly sophisticated and robust air defense network, U.S. and Saudi security personnel failed to detect a swarm of at least a dozen drones that struck at the heart of Saudi Arabia’s oil infrastructure.
As the WSJ noted. “U.S. and Saudi forces have largely focused on the kingdom’s southern border with Yemen, where Riyadh has been fighting Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen’s civil war. The attacks originated from Iranian territory in the northern Persian Gulf,” the WSJ reported, citing anonymous officials with knowledge of the intelligence/investigative results thus far. “The Saudi’s are fairly confident that the drones and missiles were launched near Iran’s southern border with Iraq,” and flew below radar coverage, “low to the ground, on their way to slamming into the heart of Saudi Arabia’s oil industry on Saturday.”
“U.S. and Saudi officials didn’t anticipate a strike coming from inside Iranian territory,” the WSJ noted, as opposed to originating from Iranian-back proxy forces inside Yemen and elsewhere.
This gap in Riyadh’s air defense network, “left Saudi Arabia’s eastern flank undefended by any U.S. or Saudi air defense systems; and, reinforced a stark vulnerability as Tehran grows more frustrated [desperate] over U.S. sanctions,” the WSJ wrote.
“You know, we don’t have an unblinking eye over the entire Middle East at all times,” said Marine General and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Joseph Dunford to reporters in London on Tuesday. “The U.S. deployed a Patriot missile defense system to Prince Sultan Air Base this year,” the WSJ added, and “not in range” of this apparent Iranian-backed strike. “In the attack, Iran deployed more sophisticated missile technology, that a U.S. official described as very maneuverable and with a lower signature, and therefore harder to detect.”
“U.S. military officials are examining evidence they say points directly to Iran,” the WSJ reported. [U.S.] officials say they have two types of evidence that points directly to Iran: circumstantial evidence that may include communications before the attack; and, forensic evidence, which includes wreckage, remnants of missiles and drones, chemicals, and blast damage. American military officials have visited the blast site in Saudi Arabia as well as examined the debris, finding major components from at least one missile that did not explode. Investigators have also found debris that appears to be Iranian cruise missile technology.”
This attack has Iranian fingerprints all over it; and, there is little doubt that the attack wasn’t conceived and orchestrated by Iran, most likely Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corp (IRGC). The fact that there was a gap in the U.S./Saudi air defense network is not all that surprising. Having a blanket air defense network that covers ‘every square inch of territory is very expensive and probably a pipe dream — especially in this new era of drones, autonomous systems, miniature and micro robotics, and so on. Having said that, U.S. officials are likely considering a Saudi version of Israel’s Iron Dome, which has been highly successful in knocking down and defeating incoming missiles aimed at Israel. Providing Riyadh with a more sophisticated and capable air defense system is a more attractive alternative to any U.S. military action. Yes, Iran is not our friend, and must be deterred. But, Saudi Arabia’s military is quite capable of responding to this provocative act. Perhaps the Mullahs in Tehran are in more trouble than we know about; and, are trying to divert/distract public attention away from their domestic problems and more towards an outside adversary.
Beyond that, the adversary gets a vote. Drone swarms, stealth drones, ‘suicide’ drones, hijacking drones, dog-fighting drones, — well you get the picture. Warfare, especially hyvbrid or asymmetric warfare is changing — more toward drones, autonomous systems, cyber, space, and hypersonic missiles. Other adversaries and terrorist networks have no doubt taken notice of the impact and media coverage of this attack; and, are likely trying to put together their own version of this kind of attack to shut down a nation’s commercial airline/runways, or any number of other targets/scenarios. As for not envisioning such a strike originating from Iranian territory — one is reminded of what horror/fiction author Stephen King once wrote, “God punishes us for what we cannot imagine.” RCP, fortunascorner.com