Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is accompanied by Saudi Ambassador to the United States Prince Khalid bin Salman al-Saud as he departs from King Salman Air Base on Oct. 17, 2018. (State Department photo by Ron Przysucha)

‘Locked and Loaded’ Trump Opens Oil Reserve After Drone Attacks on Saudi Sector

President Trump said today that he’s authorized the release of oil from the country’s strategic reserve “if needed” after drone attacks knocked out about half of Saudi Arabia’s oil output.

Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi rebels claimed responsibility for the Saturday drone strikes on an oil processing facility at Abqaiq and the Khurais oil field, though the U.S. blames Iran. Some Saudi media outlets accused Shiites in Iraq of launching the attack from that country; Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi’s office said the drones did not come from Iraq and that they “will deal firmly with anyone who tries to violate the constitution.”

With 5.7 million barrels of crude production a day halted, oil prices jumped more than 11 percent the next day. Saudi Aramco said it expects to restore about two million of those barrels by Monday.

“Based on the attack on Saudi Arabia, which may have an impact on oil prices, I have authorized the release of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, if needed, in a to-be-determined amount sufficient to keep the markets well-supplied. I have also informed all appropriate agencies to expedite approvals of the oil pipelines currently in the permitting process in Texas and various other States,” Trump tweeted today. “Saudi Arabia oil supply was attacked. There is reason to believe that we know the culprit, are locked and loaded depending on verification, but are waiting to hear from the Kingdom as to who they believe was the cause of this attack, and under what terms we would proceed!”

The White House said Saturday that Trump spoke with Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman on Saturday “to offer his support for Saudi Arabia’s self-defense.”

“The United States strongly condemns today’s attack on critical energy infrastructure. Violent actions against civilian areas and infrastructure vital to the global economy only deepen conflict and mistrust,” the statement continued. “The United States Government is monitoring the situation and remains committed to ensuring global oil markets are stable and well supplied.”

Brian Harrell, assistant director at the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), warned at last month’s Counter UAS Summit in D.C. that “attacks from drones are not an emerging threat, they were emerging five years ago — this is an imminent threat.”

“Critical infrastructure owners and operators, as part of their security and resilience plans, need to invest in drone detection and better understand how to respond to the overhead threat that unmanned aircraft systems pose,” Harrell said.

“Drones are excellent tools for response and recovery missions after a natural or man-made crisis event. However, when used for nefarious purposes, they can be used to penetrate WIFI networks, map critical transmission or pipeline systems, or drop improvised explosive devices into infrastructure or crowds.”

CISA offers a number of resources to help industry with the overhead threat.

PERSPECTIVE: Steps Government, Industry Can Take to Keep Us Safer from Malicious Drones

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Bridget Johnson is the Managing Editor for Homeland Security Today. A veteran journalist whose news articles and analyses have run in dozens of news outlets across the globe, Bridget first came to Washington to be online editor and a foreign policy writer at The Hill. Previously she was an editorial board member at the Rocky Mountain News and syndicated nation/world news columnist at the Los Angeles Daily News. Bridget is a senior fellow specializing in terrorism analysis at the Haym Salomon Center. She is a Senior Risk Analyst for Gate 15, a private investigator and a security consultant. She is an NPR on-air contributor and has contributed to USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, New York Observer, National Review Online, Politico, New York Daily News, The Jerusalem Post, The Hill, Washington Times, RealClearWorld and more, and has myriad television and radio credits including Al-Jazeera and SiriusXM.

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