On June 13, Iranian and Arab media reported attacks in the Gulf of Oman on two oil tankers, the Front Altair of Norway and the Kokuka Courageous of Japan. The vessels were attacked in the waters between the territories of Iran, the UAE and Oman.
Some data is indicative of a torpedo attack that resulted in explosions and a fire aboard the vessels but still there is no official confirmation yet of what might have caused the incidents. Crewmembers were evacuated from both tankers. The Iranians rescued 44 sailors, including eleven Russian citizens. All of them were taken off the Front Altair and brought to the Iranian port of Jask.
The crew of the Kokuka Courageous was taken aboard by the U.S. destroyer Brainbridge. It returned to the tanker somewhat later and the Kokuka Courageous was towed to the UAE. As for the Front Altair, it continues drifting in the Gulf.
The Pentagon rushed to say the attack on the tankers might have involved torpedoes or limpet mines and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who made a statement to reporters, accused Iran of planting mines in the Gulf of Oman. He alleged that the tankers had been damaged by actuation of the mines.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) 13 июня 2019 г.
Following the incident, the US Central Command (CENTCOM) circulated video footage, which according to its claims showed the Iranian military remove an unexploded mine from the Japanese tanker that had suffered damage in the Gulf of Oman. U.S. officials claimed this was the proof of Iran’s guilt in the incident.
It is worthwhile noting though the footage is in black and white and has a very low quality. It looks far more like the product of a montage of separate videos that were filmed at different moments of time, as well as from different angles and with different zooming. Inscriptions and flags are invisible and unrecognizable in this footage and that is why one cannot tell for sure that the video exposes an action of the Iranian military.
The UN Security Council has called for a thorough investigation of the incident in the Gulf of Oman.
Officials in Tehran have dismissed the U.S. claims as groundless, in their turn.
Suspicious doesn’t begin to describe what likely transpired this morning.
Iran’s proposed Regional Dialogue Forum is imperative.
— Javad Zarif (@JZarif) 13 июня 2019 г.
The Iranian Deputy Ambassador to the UN, Eshagh Al Habib, said these incidents signaled the U.S. perseverance with its policy line in the Middle East, which aims to destabilize the situation in the Middle East, in the Persian Gulf and in the Gulf of Oman and to build up the American presence and influence there.
Mr. Al Habib said the inflammatory claims the U.S. representative made against Iran at a meeting of the UN Security Council on June 13, 2019, meant a yet another manifestation of that country’s psychological and Iranophobic activities. He said Tehran strongly rejected any ungrounded accusations on the part of the U.S. in connection with the events of June 13, 2019, and condemns them most resolutely. America’s war and economic terror against the people of Iran, and its broad military presence in the region had always been the main source of disruption and instability in the Persian Gulf area. It had always posed a most potent threat to peace and stability there, the ambassador said.
“Neither fake news nor publication of other misleading information or footage nor shameless accusations of others can change reality,” he went on.
Iran once again warns about repressions, intimidation, threats, and malicious behavior of the U.S. and expresses concern over the current highly suspicious incidents involving oil tankers, Mr. Al Habib indicated.
UK LINES UP WITH U.S.
In the wake of U.S. actions, the UK authorities came up with the claims that the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps was ‘almost certainly’ bearing responsibility for attacks on the two tankers in the Gulf of Oman.
“Our own assessment leads us to conclude that responsibility for the attacks almost certainly lies with Iran,” Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said.
He also added that “no other state or non-state actor could plausibly have been responsible.”
I condemn yesterday’s attacks on vessels in the Gulf of Oman. UK’s assessment concludes that responsibility for the attacks almost certainly lies with Iran. These latest attacks build on a pattern of destabilising Iranian behaviour and pose a serious danger to the region
— Jeremy Hunt (@Jeremy_Hunt) 14 июня 2019 г.
“I call on Iran to stop all forms of destabilizing activity. We are working with partners to find diplomatic solutions to de-escalate tensions,” Hunt twittered.
In targeting civilian shipping, international norms have been violated. Essential ships & crews can pass through int’l waters safely. I call on Iran to stop all forms of destabilising activity. We are working with partners to find diplomatic solutions to de-escalate tensions.
— Jeremy Hunt (@Jeremy_Hunt) 14 июня 2019 г.
Yet far from everyone in the UK is viewing Iran as a villain of the piece. For instance, Labor Party leader Jeremy Corbyn urged the government to provide veritable proof of Iranian responsibility for the attack on the tankers.
“Without credible evidence about the tanker attacks, the government’s rhetoric will only increase the threat of war,” Mr. Corbyn wrote on Twitter.
“Britain should act to ease tensions in the Gulf, not fuel a military escalation that began with US withdrawal from the Iran nuclear agreement,” he wrote on Twitter.
Britain should act to ease tensions in the Gulf, not fuel a military escalation that began with US withdrawal from the Iran nuclear agreement. Without credible evidence about the tanker attacks, the government’s rhetoric will only increase the threat of war.
— Jeremy Corbyn (@jeremycorbyn) 14 июня 2019 г.
Secretary Hunt lashed out at Corbyn in response, saying: “Pathetic and predictable. From Salisbury to the Middle East, why can he never bring himself to back British allies, British intelligence or British interests?”
Pathetic and predictable. From Salisbury to the Middle East, why can he never bring himself to back British allies, British intelligence or British interests? https://t.co/8JyGz7T4Yx
— Jeremy Hunt (@Jeremy_Hunt) 15 июня 2019 г.
WHO STANDS TO GAIN FROM OIL TANKERS PROVOCATION?
The Gulf of Oman incident that involved a tank belonging to Japan coincided with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s historic visit to Iran. Committing a subversive act against Japanese property would be suicidal for Tehran in this situation. Moreover,
we have apparent evidence from the crew of the tanker Kokuka Courageous on how promptly they received assistance in distress from the Iranian Navy. What they have said stands in a marked contrast with the U.S. assertions. The party that purported subversion will never rescue those whom it targeted with limpet mines.
— Russian Platform #HandsOffVenezuela 🇻🇪 (@RussiaConnects) 14 июня 2019 г.
The U.S. charged Iran with the attacks without providing any substantiated grounds. The Americans claimed the tankers had been attacked with mines, while the Japanese tanker crew said the attack had come from the air.
The owner of the Japanese oil tanker is disputing many U.S. claims about the attack.
The U.S. says that Iran used mines to disable the ship, the Japanese say that they were hit by a ‘flying object’. pic.twitter.com/5YtXWCwzQY
— CGTN America (@cgtnamerica) 14 июня 2019 г.
Given the situation as it is, Iran obviously has no interest in triggering a new larger-scale conflict with any country and therefore it stands to gain nothing from the subversive act targeting the tankers, either politically or economically.
The Iranian officials have said many a time they prefer negotiations – on the nuclear deal and on the de-escalation of tensions in the region likewise. While the Iranian government has come up with an initiative to settle any contradictions and to scale down the tensions in the region, there is no sense in staging attacks on ships or provoking a new conflict. Iran has proposed talks on security issues with the countries making up the Cooperation Council of Arab States of the Gulf (GCC) on security issues and the signing of a nonaggression treaty. It is currently experiencing tough pressure in the form of sanctions. It will not profit in any way from an escalation of conflicts with neighbors or with the countries it is seeking to build up economic partnership with in bypass of U.S. sanctions. This fully applies to Japan.
All of these facts show graphically the likelihood of Iran’s interestedness in any kind of subversive operations in the Gulf of Oman is extremely small. Contrary to it, Tehran has warned on numerous occasions of possible provocations in the Gulf area on the part of certain political groups that might find conflicts and chaos in the region likely lucrative for promoting their political interests.
What different countries have said about an incident involving two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman pic.twitter.com/AfEexccS5I
— AFP news agency (@AFP) 13 июня 2019 г.
It is equally noteworthy that the shares of U.S. energy companies rallied on June 13 after two days in the red when reports on the incident in the Gulf of Oman started coming in.
And on June 14, the global market prices of oil hiked in the wake of rumors on possible disruptions of supplies after the incident and on the background of a downward revision of forecasts for a growth of global demand for crude oil. The August futures for Brent oil went up 1.57 percent to $ 62.27 per barrel and the July futures for WTI climbed 0.94 percent to $ 52.77.
— Helen Robertson (@HelenCRobertson) 13 июня 2019 г.