How the Iranian attack went down in Saudi Arabia

Stephen Bryen:
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.

Drones (probably of the Abalil 2/T type) were launched from Iranian-controlled Shi’ite militia bases in southern Iraq, and cruise missiles of the Quds-1 type were launched from Iran, near the Iran-Iraq border. Twenty-two weapons were fired in all, of which 19 hit their targets, with sufficient precision to hit oil tanks in roughly the same spot.

The high precision has amazed US Pentagon analysts. They do not understand how that could be done from such a long distance and beyond the communications capabilities of even the Quds-1.

The American Tomahawk can achieve similar accuracy, but it requires very sophisticated terrain following and scene-matching electronics plus GPS. The “scenes” are assembled ahead of time and programmed into the computer memory of the Tomahawk. The flight path is predetermined and the scene matching provides the final guidance.

It is very unlikely that the Quds-1 has such accuracy. It is also unlikely that the Ababil drone can scene match or be controlled from very far away.

Of course, we will know more when the US completes its exploitation of two crashed Quds missiles that were recovered from the attack.

But my bet is that the accuracy was managed in an entirely different manner.

I think Saudi Arabia was infiltrated by well-trained operators who were close to the targets and were able to guide the terminal phase of the attacking cruise missiles (and maybe the drones) via video transmitted from the missiles and drones.

The drones raise a different question, and it is highly doubtful they were the cause of the tanker strikes. What is known of the Ababil is that its warhead is a high explosive stuffed with ball bearings. It would have exploded on contact and made a mess. The Quds-1, on the other hand, could have a penetration-type warhead like an RPG, but maybe without the explosive.

Take note that the satellite photos we have show no fire on the tanks that were hit. Why not? Maybe because the idea was to blow some holes in the tanks to show what could happen – a demonstration aimed as much at the United States as at Saudi Arabia. In fact, while we are making bets I will bet this attack had nothing whatever to do with the Houthis. They were the plausible deniability Iran thought it needed. This attack was aimed at humiliating the United States.
It would have taken months to prepare this kind of attack, not days. The drones would have to be prepared and smuggled into Iraq. The Quds-1 cruise missiles would need to be moved close to the border. The agents in the field would need to be trained and moved into Saudi Arabia. An operation like this would be an organizational and operational challenge and the Iranians proved competent.
This analysis looks plausible.  How they smuggled the drones into Saudi Arabia is not explained.   If this was the Iranian plan it was extremely daring in its execution.


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