As President Donald Trump gets tough on Iran, sectarian violence continues to break out throughout the Middle East. The Saudis are halting oil exports through the Red Sea due to attacks from the Houthi rebels of Yemen.
“Saudi Arabia is temporarily halting all oil shipments through Bab al-Mandeb strait immediately until the situation becomes clearer and maritime transit through Bab al-Mandeb is safe,” Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih said.
According to a Jerusalem Post report, there was previously seventeen million barrels of oil per day that crossed through the Red Sea. Due in part to violence perpetrated by the Houthis, only four million barrels per day pass through the Red Sea at this point. The Saudis think that removing the Houthis from the the coast at Hodeidah would allow the oil trade to resume at full capacity.
Various politicians of the Middle East have come out to condemn the attacks.
“I think this is another example of why the Houthi takeover of the Yemeni government in Sanaa should end,” said Dr. Abdullatif bin Rashid Al Zayan, the former Bahrani engineer who currently serves as the secretary general of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).
“I think this is another example of why the Houthi takeover of the Yemeni government in Sanaa should end,” said Dr. Anwar Gargash, who serves as Minister of State for Foreign Affairs for the United Arab Emirates.
Iran, however, is not echoing this same narrative. They stand with the Houthis against Saudi Arabia and point to US involvement as root cause of the problems.
“The Red Sea which was secure is no longer secure with the American presence,” Iran’s top commander Qassem Soleimani said. “As a soldier, it is my duty to respond to Trump’s threats… If he wants to use the language of threat…he should talk to me, not to the president.”
The Saudis have been locked into a brutal war in Yemen which has allegedly resulted in many human rights violations. The US is backing the Saudis in this war indirectly by providing them with hundreds of billions of dollars worth of high tech weapons.
It remains to be seen how this fallout will impact US talks with Iran, as the Saudis will certainly be pressuring Trump to get tough on Iran to give them more leverage in dealing with their Houthi enemies from Yemen.