US commits to Saudi defense after Houthi attacks on oil heartland

The United States said on Monday it is committed to defending Saudi Arabia following drone and missile strikes claimed by Yemen's Iran-aligned Houthi movement, including on a Saudi facility vital to oil exports.
Saudi authorities said there were no casualties or property losses from Sunday's attacks targeting an oil storage yard at Ras Tanura, site of a refinery and the world's biggest offshore oil loading facility, and a residential compound in Dhahran used by state-controlled oil giant Saudi Aramco.
The attacks, which drove Brent crude prices above $70 a barrel to their highest since January 2020, come at a time of friction in the decades-old alliance between Saudi Arabia and the United States as President Joe Biden puts pressure on Riyadh over its human rights record and the ruinous Yemen war.
"The heinous Houthi assaults on civilians and vital infrastructure demonstrate lack of respect for human life and disregard for peace efforts," the US embassy in the kingdom said in an Arabic-language Twitter post.
"The United States stands by Saudi Arabia and its people. Our commitment to defend the Kingdom and its security is firm."
The Houthis have been battling a Saudi-led coalition in Yemen for six years in a conflict largely seen as a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran.
Saudi Defence Ministry spokesman Colonel Turki al-Malki, who also speaks for the coalition, said on Al Arabiya TV channel that Iran was smuggling missiles and drones to the Houthis. The group and Tehran have in the past rejected such charges.
Riyadh has repeatedly said that Iran's ballistic missile program and support for regional proxies including in Yemen should be part of any talks aimed at reviving a nuclear pact with Iran that Biden's predecessor Donald Trump quit.
The Houthi movement said its operation on Sunday using 14 drones and eight ballistic missiles also attacked military targets in the Saudi cities of Dammam, Asir and Jazan.
The coalition said it destroyed 12 Houthi drones, without specifying locations in the kingdom, and two ballistic missiles launched towards Jazan.
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