The US’s most recent sanctions on Iranian oil exports have created a backlash, among them the latest incident to take place in contentious waters.
The United Arab Emirates has reported “acts of sabotage” against four merchant ships off its coast. The Emirati Ministry of Foreign Affairs said there are no fatalities or injuries in the incident, which took place near the eastern port of Fujairah.
The statement does not state what the supposed act of sabotage allegedly consisted of nor who was responsible for the incident.
The port of Fujairah is situated about 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.
Tension between the US and Iran are increasing massively in recent weeks. The US has increased its military presence in the region. The aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln and a bomber squadron were transferred to the region a few days ago and on Friday, the Pentagon declared that provisional Defence Minister Patrick Shanahan had also agreed to the transfer of the USS Arlington and a patriot system.
US deployment of military, Saudi tanks among the attacked
“The presence of a US warship in the Bab Al Mandab, the arrival of B-52H Stratofortress bombers at Qatar’s Al Udeid Air Base, the USS Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier strike group’s deployment to the Persian Gulf, new economic sanctions on Iran, the US embassy in Iraq issuing a warning and Washington’s terrorist designation of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps have collectively contributed to this extremely tense situation,” Giorgio Cafiero writes for TRT World.
Saudi officials said on Monday two oil tankers were among the hit ships.
Energy Minister Khalid Al Falih said the attack had caused “significant damage” to the structure of the two vessels, but without causing any casualties or oil spills, according to the official SPA news agency.
This attack “aims to undermine the freedom of maritime navigation and the security of oil supplies to consumers all over the world”, he said.
According to the Saudi minister, one of the vessels was en route to be loaded with crude oil to the US. However, he did not give details about the party responsible for the attack.
Iran’s Foreign Ministry calls for launching investigation on attacks
In an official statement on Monday, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Abbas Mousavi called for clarification on the sabotage, according to the Iranian Fars news agency.
The spokesperson referred to the negative impact of the accident to “security of shipping and maritime transport”. Mousavi warned “against any conspiracy orchestrated by ill-wishers to undermine stability and security in the region”.
The US administration re-imposed sanctions on Iranian oil exports in November after President Donald Trump unilaterally pulled out of the 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran, Washington and five other countries.
Last week, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said Iran would resume high-level enrichment of uranium to near weapons-grade levels if Tehran’s interests in the nuclear deal are not protected within 60 days.