IRAN WAR-GAMING? Four ships ‘sabotaged’ off the coast of the UAE amid fears Iran is targeting US-supporting vessels

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Clearly Iran is war gaming. The United Arab Emirates said Sunday that four of its commercial ships “were subjected to sabotage operations,” after false reports circulated in Lebanese and Iranian media outlets saying there had been explosions at one of the nation’s seaports. The statement carried by the state-run WAM news agency did not say who the UAE suspected of carrying out the sabotage in Gulf waters off its coast, or identify the ships involved.

DUBAI — The United Arab Emirates said Sunday that four of its commercial ships “were subjected to sabotage operations,” after false reports circulated in Lebanese and Iranian media outlets saying there had been explosions at one of the nation’s seaports.

The statement carried by the state-run WAM news agency did not say who the UAE suspected of carrying out the sabotage in Gulf waters off its coast, or identify the ships involved.

The statement said there had been “no injuries or fatalities on board the vessels,” and “no spillage of harmful chemicals or fuel.”

Earlier Sunday, pro-Iran Lebanese media and Iranian media falsely reported that there had been explosions at oil tankers at the port of Fujairah. The Associated Press found the reports to be unfounded, after speaking to Emirati officials and local witnesses.

Tensions in the region were climbing over the weekend, which began with the US announcing on Friday that it would move a Patriot missile battery to the Middle East to counter threats from Iran.

Iran is poking the bear to save its ruling mullahs. The only way the mullahs will survive is to unite its people against a common enemy. What the mullahs won’t see is the Iranian people have a common enemy – the mullohcracy.

Sabotage in the Gulf: First pictures emerge of damage to four ships, including two Saudi oil tankers, that were ‘attacked’ off the UAE coast amid fears of looming conflict between US and Iran

  • Four ships, including two Saudi oil tankers, were damaged in mysterious ‘sabotage attacks’ off the UAE coast
  • One of the commercial ships was said to be en route to pick up Saudi oil to transport to America
  • Emirati officials have declined to elaborate on the nature of the sabotage
  • The incident comes amid heightened tensions between Washington and Iran
  • Britain has since warned of the danger of a conflict breaking out ‘by accident’ 

By George Martin For Mailonline, 13 May 2019:

he tinderbox standoff between Iran and the US escalated even further today after four commercial ships were mysteriously ‘sabotaged’ off the UAE – adding to fears a conflict involving the two nations is looming.

Ships carrying oil destined for America were among those left with ‘significant damage’ on Sunday, with officials still trying to determine who was behind the attacks and how they were carried.

Pictures emerged today of a hole in the hull of one of the vessels, a Norwegian-owned tanker, after the metal was torn open having been ‘struck by an unknown object’.

Amid growing international concern today, Britain warned of the danger of conflict erupting ‘by accident’ in the Gulf – a region already on red alert over the stand-off between Tehran and Washington.

The US has already strengthened its military presence in the region, including deploying a number of strategic B-52 bombers and the USS Abraham Lincoln strike group in response to alleged Iranian threats.

America is also sending USS Arlington, carrying Marines, as well as a Patriot missile defence system. The USS Kearsarge, an amphibious assault ship carrying Marines and warplanes, has just left the Persian Gulf and is nearby in the Arabian Sea.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has scrapped a planned visit to Moscow to head to Brussels instead for talks with European officials on Iran.

Meanwhile, Tehran called for an investigation into Sunday’s ‘alarming’ attacks off the Emirati coast and warned of ‘adventurism’ by foreign players to disrupt maritime security.

Norwegian oil tanker Andrea Victory, another of the four damaged boats, pictured with a large dent in its stern on Monday morning

he A. Michel tanker under the flag of the United Arab Emirates, pictured on Monday, was one of the four tankers damaged in alleged ‘sabotage attacks’ in the Gulf the previous day
The tinderbox standoff between Iran and the US escalated even further today after four commercial ships were mysteriously ‘sabotaged’ off the UAE – adding to fears a conflict involving the two nations is looming
The crude oil tanker, Amjad, pictured today which was one of two reported tankers that were damaged in mysterious ‘sabotage attacks’, off the coast of the Gulf emirate of Fujairah

According to CNN, the US Energy Information Administration has called the Strait of Hormuz ‘the world’s most important oil transit chokepoint,’ with an estimated one fifth of oil traded worldwide transported through the narrow.

Tehran today called for an investigation into the ‘alarming’ attacks and warned of ‘adventurism’ by foreign players to disrupt maritime security while the Islamic Republic’s arch-rival Saudi Arabia said the ‘criminal act… adversely impacts regional and international peace and security’.

In the wake of the incident Thome Ship Management, a Singaporean shipping company, said the hull of one of its ships the Andrea Victory had been damaged by an ‘unknown object’ east of Fujairah.

The Andrea Victory is a 14-year-old tanker registered in Norway.

The US has already strengthened its military presence in the region, including deploying a number of strategic B-52 bombers in response to alleged Iranian threats.

Saudi Arabia, the Islamic republic’s regional arch-rival, condemned ‘the acts of sabotage which targeted commercial and civilian vessels near the territorial waters of the United Arab Emirates,’ a foreign ministry source said.

‘This criminal act constitutes a serious threat to the security and safety of maritime navigation and adversely impacts regional and international peace and security,’ the source added.

In the wake of the incident, the UAE reported that a total of four ships ‘of various nationalities’ were subjected to ‘sabotage operations’ near the country’s territorial waters in the Gulf of Oman – east of the port of Fujairah.

Lebanese and Iranian media outlets initially reported there had been explosions at one of the nation’s seaports – although neither Saudi Arabia or the UAE commented on the nature of the sabotage.

‘Two Saudi oil tankers were subjected to a sabotage attack in the exclusive economic zone of the United Arab Emirates,’ Falih said the statement.

‘One of the two vessels was on its way to be loaded with Saudi crude oil from the port of Ras Tanura, to be delivered to Saudi Aramco’s customers in the United States,’ al-Falih said.

‘Fortunately, the attack didn’t lead to any casualties or oil spill; however, it caused significant damage to the structures of the two vessels.’

Falih’s comments came as the U.S. issued a new warning to sailors and the UAE’s regional allies condemned the reported sabotage Sunday of four ships off the coast of the port city of Fujairah.

Emirati officials have declined to elaborate on the nature of the sabotage or say who might have been responsible. However, the reports come as the U.S. has warned ships that ‘Iran or its proxies’ could be targeting maritime traffic in the region, and as America is deploying an aircraft carrier and B-52 bombers to the Persian Gulf to counter alleged threats from Tehran.

Tensions have risen in the year since President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers, restoring American sanctions that have pushed Iran’s economy into crisis. Last week, Iran warned it would begin enriching uranium at higher levels in 60 days if world powers failed to negotiate new terms for the deal.

In his statement, al-Falih said the attacks on the two tankers happened at 6 a.m. Sunday.

Saudi Arabia did not identify the vessels involved, nor did it say whom it suspected of carrying out the alleged sabotage.

Underling the regional risk, the general-secretary of the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council described the alleged sabotage as a ‘serious escalation’ in an overnight statement.

UAE Navy boats next to Al Marzoqah Saudi Arabia tanker are seen off the Port of Fujairah on Monday afternoon
Al Marzoqah is a large oil tanker which is registered in Saudi Arabia. Pictured: Media taking shots of the vessel on Monday
Ships anchored at main port of Fujairah on Monday, where media reports initially suggested four boats had been sabotaged by ‘explosions’. The UAE later denied this was the case

‘Such irresponsible acts will increase tension and conflicts in the region and expose its peoples to great danger,’ Abdullatif bin Rashid al-Zayani said. Bahrain, Egypt and Yemen’s internationally recognized government similarly condemned the alleged sabotage.

A statement Sunday from the UAE’s Foreign Ministry put the ships near the country’s territorial waters in the Gulf of Oman, east of the port of Fujairah. It said it was investigating ‘in cooperation with local and international bodies.’ It said there were ‘no injuries or fatalities on board the vessels’ and ‘no spillage of harmful chemicals or fuel.’

The reports come as the US warned ships that ‘Iran or its proxies’ could be targeting maritime traffic in the region, and as the US is deploying an aircraft carrier and B-52 bombers to the Gulf to counter what it called ‘threats from Tehran’.

The U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet, which oversees the region, did not immediately offer comment. Emirati officials declined to answer questions from The Associated Press, saying their investigation is ongoing.

Earlier Sunday, Lebanon’s pro-Iran satellite channel Al-Mayadeen, quoting ‘Gulf sources,’ falsely reported that a series of explosions had struck Fujairah’s port. State and semi-official media in Iran picked up the report from Al-Mayadeen, which later published the names of vessels it claimed were involved.

The AP, after speaking to Emirati officials and local witnesses, found the report about explosions at the port to be unsubstantiated.

Fujairah’s port is about 140 kilometers (85 miles) south of the Strait of Hormuz, the narrow mouth of the Persian Gulf through which a third of all oil at sea is traded. The facility handles oil for bunkering and shipping, as well as general and bulk cargo. It is seen as strategically located, serving shipping routes in the Persian Gulf, the Indian subcontinent and Africa.

 

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