Sunday, 18 August, 2019

Two oil tankers damaged in Gulf of Oman

Tankers attacked again in Gulf of Oman, raising fears of wider conflict Trump admin aims to kill historic talks and strangle Iran with evidence-free accusations
Patty Aguilar | 15 June, 2019, 14:11

Last week, Gen. Frank McKenzie, the head of the U.S. Central Command, told reporters travelling with him in the Middle East that he believed the Iranians or their proxies could carry out an attack at any moment.

"Even in the absence of ironclad evidence, the USA and its allies will point the finger at Iran", said Fawaz A. Gerges, professor of Middle Eastern politics at the London School of Economics.

Of the four commercial ships targeted in the May 12 attack, one was flying a UAE flag, two were tankers owned by Saudi Arabia, and the fourth was a Norwegian tanker.

Tensions between Iran and the United States have been growing since President Donald Trump a year ago withdrew from an global agreement aimed at restricting Iran's nuclear programme and reinstated economic sanctions that have had a devastating effect on the Iranian economy. Iran called on "the worldwide community to live up to its responsibilities in preventing the reckless and unsafe policies and practices of the US and its regional allies in heightening the tensions in the region".

No one has claimed Thursday's attacks and no one has specifically blamed them on any party.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is due to deliver remarks to the media at 1815 GMT, the State Department said without elaborating.

He added: "Suspicious doesn't begin to describe what likely transpired this morning".

Tehran has denied responsibility for the May 12 attacks.

The U.S. Navy rushed to assist the stricken vessels in the Gulf of Oman off the coast of Iran, including one that was set ablaze.

He has instructed the U.S. ambassador to United Nations to raise the issue before the security council.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned at the meeting that the world can not afford "a major confrontation in the Gulf region".

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told a meeting of the Security Council on cooperation between the United Nations and the League of Arab States that the world could not afford "a major confrontation in the Gulf region".

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Crude prices climbed as much as 4% after the attacks near the entrance to the Strait of Hormuz, a crucial shipping artery for Saudi Arabia, the world's biggest oil exporter, and other Gulf energy producers.

Paolo d'Amico, chairman of the tanker association, Intertanko, said: "some 30% of the world's (seaborne) crude oil passes through the Straits". Both the ship's owner and its operator said that all 21 crew members had abandoned ship and were later rescued by a nearby vessel.

Sentinel satellite image shows a plume of smoke coming from the Front Altair tanker.

The second ship, a Japanese-owned tanker, was hit by a suspected torpedo, the firm that chartered the ship said.

The US Navy's Bahrain-based 5th Fleet did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Trump has repudiated the 2015 deal limiting Iran's nuclear program, and he recently moved to cut off Iran's remaining oil exports and sent additional military forces to the region.

Both Iran and the United States have said they want to avoid war.

On Thursday night, U.S. Central Command spokesman Bill Urban released a video of what the U.S. military said was an Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corp Gashti Class patrol boat approaching the Kokuka Courageous "and was observed and recorded removing (an) unexploded limpet mine from the M/T Kokuka Courageous".

"I think the threat is imminent", McKenzie told NBC News, without offering specific evidence or other details. It is still deniable and denied. "It's a blunt message".

Iran's foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif tweeted that "reported attacks on Japan-related" tankers had taken place while Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was meeting Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei "for extensive and friendly talks".

Meanwhile, in Tokyo, Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, a top government spokesman, told reporters that Abe's trip was meant to help de-escalate Mideast tensions - not specifically mediate between Tehran and Washington.

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