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Saudi Oil Tanker 'Sabotage' Is a Dangerous Moment in US-Iran Tensions
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Saudi Arabia’s claim that two of its oil tankers have been sabotaged off the coast of the UAE is vague in detail – but could create a crisis that spins out of control and into military action.

Any attack on shipping in or close to the Strait of Hormuz, the 30-mile wide channel at the entrance to the Gulf, is always serious because it is the most important choke point for the international oil trade.

A significant armed action by the US or its allies against Iran would likely provoke Iranian retaliation in the Gulf and elsewhere in the region. Although the US is militarily superior to Iran by a wide margin, the Iranians as a last resort could fire rockets or otherwise attack Saudi and UAE oil facilities. Such apocalyptic events are unlikely – but powerful figures in Washington, such as the national security adviser John Bolton and secretary of state Mike Pompeo, appear prepared to take the risk of a war breaking out.

Bolton has long publicly demanded the overthrow of the Iranian government. “The declared policy of the United States should be the overthrow of the mullahs’ regime in Tehran,” he said last year before taking office.

“The behaviour and the objectives of the regime are not going to change and, therefore, the only solution is to change the regime itself.”

Bolton and Pompeo are reported to have used some mortar rounds landing near the US embassy in Baghdad in February as an excuse to get a reluctant Pentagon to prepare a list of military options against Iran. These would include missile and airstrikes, but it is unclear what these would achieve from the US point of view.

Paradoxically, the US and Saudi Arabia have been talking up war against Iran just as economic sanctions are seriously biting. Iranian oil exports have dropped from 2.8 to 1.3 million barrels a day over the last year and are likely to fall further. Inflation in Iran is at 40 per cent and promises by the EU, UK, France and Germany to enable the Islamic republic to avoid sanctions on its oil trade and banking have not been fulfilled. Commercial enterprises are too frightened of being targeted by the US treasury to risk breaching sanctions.

Iran is becoming economically – though not politically – isolated. This is in contrast to previous rounds of sanctions on Iran under President Obama prior to the nuclear deal when the reverse was true. One reason why it is unlikely that Iran would carry out sabotage attacks on Saudi oil tankers is that its strategy has been to play a long game and out-wait the Trump administration. Though the Iranian economy may be badly battered, it will probably be able to sustain the pressure. Much tighter sanctions against Saddam Hussein after his invasion of Kuwait in 1990 did not lead to the fall of his regime.

The circumstance of the alleged sabotage at 6am on Sunday remain mysterious. Saudi Arabia’s energy minister Khalid al-Falih says the attack “didn’t lead to any casualties or oil-spill” but did cause damage to the structure of the vessels.

ORDER IT NOW

The incident has the potential to lead to conflict in the context of an escalating confrontation between the US and Iran. The rise in temperature reached particularly menacing levels this month as the US sent an aircraft carrier to the Gulf and Iran suspended in part its compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal after President Trump withdrew last year.

However, Iran has made serious efforts to show moderation and cultivate support from the EU, Russia and China. For this reason, it appears unlikely that it has had a hand in attacking the Saudi oil tankers. Iranian foreign ministry spokesperson Abbas Mousavi asked for more information about what had really happened to the tankers. He warned against any “conspiracy orchestrated by ill-wishers” and “adventurism” by foreigners.

It is the unpredictability of US and Saudi foreign policy that has exacerbated the danger of military action – particularly when it comes to Iran. President Trump has accused the country of supporting “terrorism” and aggression in the Middle East.

Saudi Arabia policy is even more mercurial ever since Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman took charge in 2015, initiating a war in Yemen, detaining the prime minister of Lebanon, locking up Saudi businessmen, and being accused by the US congress of being behind the assassination of the Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul last year.

The crown prince has displayed extreme hostility towards Iran since he took power. Saudi Arabia executed 33 members of its Shia minority on 23 April, accusing 11 of them of being spies for Iran, an overwhelmingly Shia country. The defendants said they had been tortured into making false confessions and Human Rights Watch said that none of them had received a fair trial.

In this febrile atmosphere, almost any incident, true or false – such as the unconfirmed sabotage of tankers or a few mortar rounds fired towards the US embassy in Baghdad – might provide the spark to ignite a wider conflict.

(Republished from The Independent by permission of author or representative)
 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: American Military, Iran, Saudi Arabia 
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  1. anon[833] • Disclaimer says:

    Saudi Arabia’s claim that two of its oil tankers have been sabotaged off the coast of the UAE is vague in detail – but could create a crisis that spins out of control and into military action.

    i’m sure it really happened and it’s not just an excuse to elevate tensions with Iran

    • Replies: @Donald A Thomson
  2. renfro says:

    Another false flag effort perchance.

    (May 6, 2019 / JNS)

    Israel tipped the United States about a possible Iranian plan to “attack U.S. interests in the Gulf” prior to U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton warning Iran on Sunday night with “unrelenting force,” reported Israel’s Channel 13, citing senior Israeli officials.

    “The officials said intelligence gathered by Israel, primarily by the Mossad intelligence agency, is understood to be part of the reason for Bolton’s announcement,” according to the outlet, adding that the tip was passed along a few weeks ago during discussions at the White House between delegations led by Bolton and his Israeli counterpart, Meir Ben-Shabbat.

    https://www.jns.org/report-israel-tipped-us-about-possible-iranian-plot-to-attack-us-in-gulf/

    • Replies: @Realist
  3. El Dato says:

    and being accused by the US congress of being behind the assassination of the Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul last year.

    Woah, what a circumlocution.

    An assassination that was clearly managed from top high and meant to send a cartel-grade “message” to critics. Some “rogue element” in the feudal hierarchy *might* be responsible, but what’s the likelihood of that?

    Just today:

    Khashoggi colleagues claim CIA has warned them they’re targets of retaliation: Report

    Associates of slain Saudi Arabian journalist Jamal Khashoggi have been told that they have become targets after blaming his death on Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Time reported.

    Khashoggi is of course an interesting element than a mere “journalist”, but be that as it may.

    For this reason, it appears unlikely that it has had a hand in attacking the Saudi oil tankers.

    For all we know, somebody let a wrench fall down a maintenance shaft.

  4. A123 says:

    There is an internal inconsistency in the article.

    … promises by the EU, UK, France and Germany to enable the Islamic republic to avoid sanctions on its oil trade and banking have not been fulfilled. Commercial enterprises are too frightened of being targeted by the US treasury to risk breaching sanctions.

    … cultivate support from the EU, Russia and China. For this reason, it appears unlikely that it has had a hand in attacking the Saudi oil tankers

    Iran’s attempt at “cultivating” support has failed. That makes it quite likely that the attack is real. — Khemeni is escalating to cover the failure of “cultivation”.

    There is also the question of how sincere the “cultivation” was. The article blatantly ignores the proven fact that Iran is responsible for various and sundry terrorist acts in the EU (1).
    _____

    https://www.dw.com/en/eu-sanctions-iran-over-thwarted-attacks-on-european-soil/a-46997245

    • Replies: @anon
  5. El Dato says:

    Iran’s attempt at “cultivating” support has failed. That makes it quite likely that the attack is real. — Khemeni is escalating to cover the failure of “cultivation”.

    Sounds like bullshit. Why would they “escalate”? The real world doesn’t work like a Hollywood blockbuster where baddies decide to “escalate” out of the blue to give the superhero a chance to perform.

    Also, pictures:

    https://www.rt.com/news/459253-footage-extent-damage-tankers/

    Video footage captured by an RT Arabic correspondent details the damage done to a Norwegian tanker ship at a port in UAE waters. Saudi and Emirati officials allege three other ships nearby were targeted with ‘sabotage.’

    This looks like someone rear-ended the Andrea Victory. Weird kind of “sabotage”. Maybe they had a drunken sailor moment.

    Hilarious commentary:

    US President Donald Trump did not speculate whether Tehran was behind the Fujairah incident but said the US would retaliate if Iran attacked any tankers in the Mediterranean.

    Well, Fujairah is not in the Mediterranean. So I guess it’s cool.

    Back to the matter at hand. We hear this neocon talking point:

    There is also the question of how sincere the “cultivation” was. The article blatantly ignores the proven fact that Iran is responsible for various and sundry terrorist acts in the EU (1).

    Iran has chilled out quite a bit since the 90s.

    “various and sundry” didn’t register on my radar in any particular way.

    Frankly the only things that did were hilarious reports of Hezbollah in Mexico under Obama. Sourced from Saudi Arabia. Quite idiotic.

    Your Deutsche Welle article “one link down” from 2018-10 says:

    Danish domestic intelligence chief Finn Borch Andersen said his PET agency suspected Iranian intelligence of “planning an attack on Danish soil” against three members of the Arab Struggle Movement for the Liberation of Ahwaz (ASMLA).

    A Norwegian citizen of Iranian origin was arrested on October 21 in Sweden in relation to the plot and extradited to Denmark, Swedish authorities said.

    Andersen said the suspect had taken photographs of the residences of members ASMLA, which Iran considers a terrorist organization.

    Tehran accuses the Arab separatist group of attacking a military parade in the southwestern Iranian city of Ahvaz in September, which killed 25 people and drew accusations from Iran that the group was receiving outside help.

    The Ahvaz National Resistance, a faction of the ASMLA, claimed credit for the attack to a Saudi-funded London-based Iranian television nework. The “Islamic State” also claimed credit for the attack, prompting Iran to fire ballistic missles at targets in Syria in early October.

    However, the Netherlands-based ASMLA later denied any involvement in the Ahvaz. Danish media later reported that the Ahvaz National Resistance member who claimed credit for the attack lives in Denmark.

    Arab separatists have carried small scale attacks in Iran’s Khuzestan province for more than a decade.

    This doesn’t sound like wild “terrorism”. More like taking tabs on “our” terrorists (you know we have crazed MEK setting bombs and Israelis shooting nuclear engineers on the street in Tehran, right?). Maybe Saudi Arabia could host the resistance movement, then Denmark wouldn’t have to worry. Just a thought.

  6. anon[250] • Disclaimer says:
    @A123

    Taqiya is spewing his version of different facades of same lie again. Hey Taqiya, tell us is the fact- that report in dw is provided by same Taqiya who sat down in WhiteHouse with Bolton .

    Americans should kick the Israeli from US soil . Otherwise that nation will devour US just as it devoured Britan by forcing WW2 on it . Not only that , Zio also used Persia onetime to kill its enemies and build its villages in the past just the way Zio is building Israel and getting its enemies killed through the polluted Congress.

  7. No it isn’t a big deal. You guys aren’t even current with the news. They’re already trying to backpedal it and memoryhole it.

  8. Sean says:

    Saudi Arabia would love the US to attack Iran, but America is not going to be so easilly led. When all is said and done Iran is too big for any realistic regime change option by America and they know it. Iran is not going to be provoked and nothing is going to happen. People take Bolton’s blustering terribly seriously, but he does not have half the influence that is attributed to him.

  9. It’s a staged attack by the Israelis to drag the US into war with Iran.

  10. Realist says:
    @renfro

    Another false flag effort perchance.

    No doubt about it.The dumbass Americans fall for this time after time.

  11. It is the ‘spark to ignite a wider conflict’ that presents the greatest danger, not just to regional peace but world peace. Blindly, and unintentionally, humanity is heading for another world war. The reported sabotage of the Saudi tanker could be enough to start the conflagration.
    https://www.ghostsofhistory.wordpress.com/

  12. Christo says:

    All the cell-phones in the world and no “real-time footage” of these attacks at all.

  13. However, Iran has made serious efforts to show moderation and cultivate support from the EU, Russia and China. For this reason, it appears unlikely that it has had a hand in attacking the Saudi oil tankers.

    Bolton and Pompeo live to start a shooting war with Iran. And The Donald will do anything for Israel. Anything! The false flag that sets it off will be more impressive than some foolishness about sabotage. War with Iran (and Russia and China) will be the final and last act of aggression by the Anglo/Zionist Empire.

  14. Anonymous [AKA "Windsurfer"] says:

    Remember the USS Liberty and Mossad come to mind as the perfect Qui Bono!

  15. anon[117] • Disclaimer says:

    I’ll never vote republican again – ever. Trump is a buffoon and a liar who serves Jewish interests while doing exactly nothing for actual Americans – just Wall Street: tax cuts for the rich, destroys our healthcare system, supports increasing legal immigration, wants war for Israel, wants more payday loansharks ….The only question I have for the next election is whether I vote for the democrat or not vote at all. I won’t be supporting president Kushner and these Zionist freaks.

    • Replies: @WorkingClass
    , @Republic
  16. Why, to my nose anyway, is the stench of the CIA and Bolton all over this incident?

  17. Paradoxically, the US and Saudi Arabia have been talking up war against Iran just as economic sanctions are seriously biting. 

    That is why sanctions used to be considered acts of war.

    Must have been saner times. At least more honest.

  18. faris Mee says:

    from above –
    “……but powerful figures in Washington, such as the national security adviser John Bolton and secretary of state Mike Pompeo, appear prepared to take the risk of a war breaking out.

    Bolton has long publicly demanded the overthrow of the Iranian government. “The declared policy of the United States should be the overthrow of the mullahs’ regime in Tehran,” he said last year before taking office.

    “The behaviour and the objectives of the regime are not going to change and, therefore, the only solution is to change the regime itself.”

    Bolton and Pompeo are reported to have used some mortar rounds landing near the US embassy in Baghdad in February as an excuse to get a reluctant Pentagon to prepare a list of military options against Iran. These would include missile and airstrikes, but it is unclear what these would achieve from the US point of view…..”

    How sick is ‘murika.

  19. No, Iran is not going to haul off and attack Israel, either in Syria or Israel proper. It’s government in Tehran is many things, but stupid is not one of them.

    What Israel is attempting to do is create a false flag, to be blamed on Iran, as the justification for attacking it, and bringing it the US in on its side, militarily.

    And unfortunately, Netanyahu’s ventrilloquist dummy, here in the US, AKA President Trump, has just made it very painfully clear this morning, that the US’s withdrawal from the P5+1, and the sanctions which will ensue, are the US government’s prelude to a war against Iran.

    Just because something isn’t the most ham-fistedly, pig-headedly stupid thing the US government could do, is no guarantee that it will not do it, and President Trump’s speech about the US withdrawing from the P5+1 deal, is no exception to this very dark reality. He is making claims about Iran’s actions and capacities which bear absolutely no basis in reality.

    The IAEA, which is staffed by amazinglingly bright people, has looked at the suspected facility, and said that there is no “there” there. And if that is what the IAEA is telling the world, I would very much tend to believe them. What Netanyahu and Trump are doing is tantamount to calling members of the IAEA, in their inspections of Iran’s nuclear facilities, idiots and liers, and members of this organization is neither.

    With a potential corruption indictment hanging over his head, Netanyahu is going to want to jump start this war as quickly as possible, which is most probably the reason President Trump made the decert announcement today, rather than wait until this coming Saturday, 12 May, which was the actual deadline.

    Look for this war to generate the revival of the draft in this country, and this time, the US military will be coming after both our young women, as well as our young men. And here is how I see the forces lining up; China, Russia, and Iran on one side, with the US; NATO, Saudi Arabia, and Israel on the other. There is no way that this will be allowed to stay regional; my sense is, it will go global in a heartbeat.

  20. @anon

    You seem like a sensible person. I you are white I expect you will not vote for the Democrats.

  21. Republic says:
    @anon

    Trump is a buffoon and a liar who serves Jewish interests while doing exactly nothing for actual Americans –

    that is the truth!

  22. Paul says:

    Sounds like another alleged Gulf of Tonkin incident. Something Israel cooked up?

  23. Mike-SMO says:

    Many “players” in this game.

    MbS, the Saudi crown prince, has been replacing the old Saudi faction that was been getting wealthy with supporters of the prior American Administration, so the “sabotage” may be a Saudi power struggle. Then there are the Wahabi, the ISIS supporting radicals as well as the Muslim Brotherhood cult, any of whom may see a weakening of the Saudi Royal House as the stairway to power.

    The use of the term “sabotage” suggests something other than a direct attack by the “Bearded Ladies” or their Nazi-fanboys in the IRGC/HezbAllah.

    Since Syria seems to be heading toward a new Alawite-Kurdish-++++ state, this may be part of “Plan B” for the Hezzites. After all, Hamas, the HezbAllah cat’s paw, hasn’t accomplished anything except giving some range-time to the Israelis and a testing opportunity for US/Israeli weapons systems. Even the Iraqi Shiite Arabs are getting cranky about their Persian neighbors.

    None of the players will fess up and wear official team colors. It is getting as bad as ChiCongo…. Maybe he Shiite Mullahs will seek a different route out of this free-for-all.

  24. Anonymous [AKA "did"] says:

    Today there appeared an article on “tanker-gate” in the “Asia Times”.
    Two of the four tankers involved were Saudi flagged, one was UAE flagged, and one was Norwegian flagged. That raises the question: if Iran was involved why would it harm a Norwegian tanker? Perhaps they did not know?
    The Asia Time also published a photo of the damage to the Norwegian tanker Andrew Victory. It is a significant dent to the bow immediately above the waterline. The question is: what did that bow look like before that tanker left port?
    The damage does not appear to have been caused by an explosion.
    The damage appears to have been caused by the ship sailing onto and over some substantial solid mass. Or a collision with a smaller vessel. Or some floating obstacle. The next issue is: did this collision happen during daytime or at night? The captain or whoever else was on the bridge must know. If it was during the day that person knows whether there were Iranian boats nearby at that time.

  25. @anon

    If you are certain “it” happened, please tell us what the “it” was. [email protected]

  26. “ISRAEL LOBBY:
    WE NEED A FALSE FLAG TO START WAR WITH IRAN!!

    Neocon traitor Patrick Clawson openly suggests the US provoke Iran into firing the first shot, or failing that, a false flag deception…”

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