Last Wednesday, Iranian backed Houthi rebels targeted two ARAMCO oil tankers travelling in the Red Sea off the coast of Yemen. Houthi rebels thought they would be able to push Saudi Arabia into peace talks however they miscalculated and gave Saudi Arabia an opportunity to gain further Western backing.
In response to their tankers being targeted Saudi Arabia temporarily suspended oil shipments through the Red Sea. On the surface, Saudi Arabia seems to be simply protecting their oil exports and preventing a tanker being sunk. However, Saudi Arabia needs more allies in its war with Yemen as it has reached a stalemate with no clear end in sight. It would also like Europe to follow the US in ripping up the Iran nuclear deal. however many European countries are reluctant to.
Rising Oil prices are normally an enemy for net importers of oil as it leads to rising inflation and everyone feels the squeeze, from firms to consumers. Worse still for Europe would be oil shortages as this would cause civil unrest. If European nations were able to import less oil from Saudi Arabia they would likely have to replace it with Russian oil. This is something that European countries also want to avoid as they would become dependent on Russia and would certainly pay the price in some way.
Saudi Arabia is also looking for more military support in Yemen mainly from the US. They know they will receive it if the US feels its oil supply is at risk.
By suspending shipments of oil through the Red Sea it diverts an estimated 4.8mn barrels of oil to more costly routes and Saudi Arabia hopes that Europe will see Iran as an enemy to their oil supply and support them in their ideological battle with Iran.
After seeing that Saudi Arabia is trying to use a threatened oil supply to gain more allies against Iran and their militias the Houthis announced they were prepared to stop targeting oil shipments to remove the Saudis ability to use a threatened oil supply to gain support in Europe and the West.