Saudi oil attacks were sophisticated, accurately damaging critical infrastructure

20 September 2019, 12:45 | Updated: 20 September 2019, 23:09

Our departure is from the private terminal at Riyadh International Airport.

It begins with a safety and security briefing from an official at Aramco - the Saudi oil conglomerate which owns the two plants which were attacked.

We're told only to film when they say we can and to follow the instructions of the staff.

These are sensitive sites in terms of intellectual property security and, as last weekend proved, physical security too.

I'm pretty sure that under normal circumstances, there would be many hoops to jump through to secure the permission to film inside these oil facilities.

But these are not normal times and so Sky News and plenty of other global media outlets are heading on a hastily-arranged tour of the Khurais and Abqaiq plants.

Saudi Arabia's oil production was cut in half last weekend in an extraordinary and audacious attack which is being pinned on Iran.

The implications of the attack are both geopolitical and economic. Saudi Aramco is very keen to demonstrate that its plants are being repaired and that production is returning fast to pre-attack levels.

That's why the media is being taken, en-masse, to the two plants on an Aramco-owned plane to see the damage and the repairs for ourselves.

At a news conference a few days ago, the newly-appointed Saudi Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman said that the company had "risen like a phoenix out of the ashes".

Our visit is designed to substantiate that assertion. The company needs its clients across the world to know that it's reliable and secure.

It needs investors to know that it's worth investing in when it makes its long-awaited IPO soon. Saudi Crown Prince Mohamed Bin Salman is eyeing a valuation target of an extraordinary $2 trillion (£1.6 trillion).

But clearly this is part of the political strategy to counter the perceived threat from Iran too.

America and Saudi Arabia are attempting to illustrate why Iran must be stopped from destabilising the region - and in the case of last weekend - impacting the global oil market.

Images of the damage we are being allowed to film form part of this strategy.

The location of the damage is important. For example, damage to the northern side of structures would suggest the missiles and drones came from the north (Iran) not the south (Yemen).

It's clear looking at the damage that the missiles and drones which hit last Saturday were sophisticated, accurately taking out critical infrastructure.

No one was injured in the attacks. Staff here have told us how fast the emergency services were here, how they worked even as missiles and drones hit and how they managed to extinguish fires very quickly.

The other vital strand of the US/Saudi strategy is proving beyond doubt that Iran, and not the Yemeni Houthi rebel group, is behind the attack.

US intelligence officials have hinted that they may reveal more on that in the coming days - perhaps satellite images showing the launch site to prove the missiles came from Iran.