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Will Donald Trump unleash hell on Iran? Oil prices soaring, threats of 'full-on war'

At three in the morning on Saturday, residents of the Saudi oil town of Abqaiq were roused by something other than the pre-dawn call to prayer.A massive series of explosions at the huge oil processing plant sent flames up to thirty feet into the air, gunfire was aimed at what seemed to be a drone in the sky. Abqaiq's residents fled with their families into the surrounding desert.The events in this obscure town rocked world oil prices and dramatically raised the stakes in the ongoing tensions between the US and Iran.Abqaiq is the Saudi Kingdom's largest oil processing hub, each day converting 5.7 million barrels of crude oil into differently graded products. These are then delivered by pipeline to petrochemical plants or tankers on the Saudi coast destined for the West.The fires at Abqaiq mean Saudi Arabia has had to take half of its daily oil output offline. Since the Kingdom produces roughly ten per cent of the world's crude oil, that means a five per cent shortfall, with immediate effects on the global price of oil. At one point the price rose by 20 per cent, from $60 (£48) to $72 (£58) a barrel.Abqaiq was clearly a well-chosen target, but not the only one, since on the same night more drones struck the Khurais oilfield, causing more fires.This could not have come at a worse time for Saudi Arabia's giant Aramco state-oil concern. The Saudis are trying to part privatise Aramco, on an optimistic valuation of $2trillion. The attacks will have knocked a good $300billion off the company value.No one should underestimate how these drone attacks have ratcheted up the threat of war in the region.The Saudis and the US are convinced they were the handiwork of Iran, refusing to believe the claims that Yemen's insurgent Houthi rebels – currently fighting a brutal civil war against a Yemeni government backed by a Saudi-led military coalition – have the equipment and the skill to mount such sophisticated attacks.US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was straight out of the box, saying Iran must be 'held accountable for its aggression'. President Donald Trump has said America was 'locked and loaded', though he would be guided by the Saudis as to how he would respond.Iran's elite Revolutionary Guard, meanwhile, has announced it is prepared for a 'full-scale war'. Its commander, Brigadier-General Amir Ali Hajizadeh, warned that the region is 'like a powder keg', saying: 'It is possible a conflict will happen because of a misunderstanding.'So who should we believe? And are we really facing conflagration?Certainly the Houthi have previously struck at Saudi oil pipelines and cities, but those efforts were like inaccurate pinpricks compared to the hugely damaging and sophisticated drone attacks.The US claims that satellite images of the 19 blast impacts show the drones must have been launched from Iran, or by Shia militants in Iraq, who are clients of the Iranians. Inspection of downed drones or unexploded missiles will indicate who made these weapons, but add little information as to where they were launched from. Whatever the case, the attacks put President Trump in a seriously tight quandary.Right from the start of his presidency, he has been piling maximum pressure on Iran to renegotiate the 2015 nuclear deal struck when President Obama was in power, under which Iran agreed to limit its nuclear activities in return for the lifting of crippling ...Read more

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