Drone component ties Iran to Saudi oil attacks, watchdog says

A small component that was found inside a drone that attacked Saudi Arabia’s oil infrastructure last year has been linked to Iran, a technical analysis said Wednesday — because it’s the same part that goes into drones the Iranian government sends to Houthi rebels in Yemen.

The Khurais oil field in Saudi Arabia is seen in 2019 before an attack damaged the facility. Photo courtesy U.S. Government/DigitalGlobe

Tehran has long been suspected in the attacks on two Saudi oil installations last September, and the conclusion provided by Conflict Armament Research would provide hard evidence, if it’s true.

The London-based weapons watchdog said an instrument in the drones from the Saudi attacks roughly match those found in Iranian-made drones provided to Houthi rebels in Yemen.

The research group said it studied captured Houthi drones and identified the component — a vertical gyroscope that’s unique to drones manufactured in Iran.

“The gyroscopes appear to be of the same make — yet not the same model — as a unit that Saudi authorities recovered following the aerial attack on the Aramco oil facility in Abqaiq,” Wednesday’s 36-page report said.

Iran has denied it was involved in the drone strikes at the Abqaiq oil processing plant, located about 200 miles northeast of Riyadh, which heavily damaged tanks and towers. A simultaneous attack targeted the Khurais oil field.

The attacks cut production of 5.7 million barrels per day — about 6 percent of total global supply — and contributed to a spike in oil prices.

Saudi Ararbia immediately blamed Iran for the attacks but United Nations investigators have not yet been able to conclusively make the connection.

ByDon Jacobson