The USA and erstwhile USSR (Russia) have fought a series of proxy wars, namely in Germany, Vietnam, Iran, Cuba, and the list goes on. After the fall of the USSR, the ‘bipolar’ world was transformed into a ‘multipolar’ world with their allies flexing their muscles and fighting through their own proxies. One such proxy war is in Yemen where the war has been raging for the last four years, displacing many and leading to impoverishment. The war, traditionally fought between Saudi Arabia-backed fighters, is against the Houthis supported by Iran. The war has also been given a religious angle, with the Sunni backed kingdom and its allies like the UAE on the one side, and the Shia ideology of Iran on the other.
The recent attack on Saudi Aramco refinery in Abqaiq and Khurais in the Eastern side of the kingdom of Saudi Arabia shook the whole world. With a series of drones attacking the complex, the Houthis have taken responsibility for the attacks, calling it retaliation against the Saudi government’s presence in the Yemeni civil war. The Yemeni war that began in 2015 has seen the massive displacement in the population, deaths, and starvations, although not much is known about the war due to little media coverage. Such is the situation after four years that the country is divided among the Houthis, the forces loyal to ex-president Hadi, ISIS, and Al Qaeda. The status of the war is still ongoing, and I feel, without political will.
The attacks on the refinery have two implications. One, that Saudi Arabia and its allies see Iran as the ‘mastermind’ behind this attack. Going by the missiles and the technology used, the US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, has accused Iran of being responsible for attacks on Saudi oil plants. and stated that such sophisticated technology and arson cannot be available to the rebel Houthis. It is interesting to note that in the recent G-7 summit, American president Donald Trump had softened his stance on Iran, calling for talks on the nuclear deal that had been finalised in 2015 by the P5+1 countries, and which the USA abrogated after his election win. Trump also removed his National Security Adviser (NSA) John Bolton, who had a rigid stance on Iran and the Middle-East. This will, again, lead to more tension around the Gulf, and will continue to sour the relationship between Iran and the USA.
Another implication is the oil glut, Saudi Arabia is one of the top oil exporters in the world, this is bound to create shockwaves, especially for countries like India which import 80% of the oil it consumes. The attacks have already created ripples in stocks and fear among investors in oil price rise. Another cause of concern is that India has adhered to the USA directive of cutting down oil imports from Iraq, so India relies heavily on Saudi Arabia after Iraq to fulfil its oil consumption.
History has shown how oil is a very contentious topic. Although both countries have identified the risk of war and called for restraint, it also needs to be seen from the prism of the Yemen civil war, and there is an urgent need to end this proxy war. A true multipolar world is one where every country takes the initiative to stand for what is right and understand the trivialities of war.