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What Is Behind Attacks On Tankers In Persian Gulf Region

Tensions are on the rise around the Persian Gulf after a series of suspicious attacks on oil tankers in the region.

On May 12, a supposed sabotage attack targeted very large crude carrier Amjad, crude tanker Al Marzoqah [both owned by Saudi shipping firm Bahri], UAE-flagged fuel bunker barge A Michel and Norwegian-registered oil products tanker MT AndreA Victory off UAE’s Fujairah. the attack did not cause any casualties or an oil spill.

Intitially, Thome Ship Management said that its MT Andrew Victory was “struck by an unknown object”. Jaber Al Lamki, an executive director at the UAE’s National Media Council, claimed that the attack was “aimed at undermining global oil supplies and maritime security.”

Mainstream media outlets came with variuos speculations providing contradictory claims of ‘anonymous soources’ on the incident. Most of these speculations were focusing on the supposed Iranian involvement in the situation.

What Is Behind Attacks On Tankers In Persian Gulf Region

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The US de-facto blamed Iran for the situation with National Security Adviser John Bolton claiming that the attacks were the work of “naval mines almost certainly from Iran.”

“It’s clear that Iran is behind the Fujairah attack. Who else would you think would be doing it? Someone from Nepal?” he told journalists at a US embassy briefing.

“There is no doubt in anybody’s minds in Washington, we know who did this and it’s important Iran knows we know,” he added.

In own turn, Iran stated that it played no part in the attacks and said that it was a false flag fabricated by the US. Foreign Minister Javad Zarif stressed that Iran expected “suspicious sabotage acts.”

“In this meeting, concern about suspicious actions and sabotage in the region was talked about, and we said that we had previously predicted that such actions would occur to create tensions in the region,” said Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif following talks with his Indian counterpart Sushma Swaraj in New Delhi on May 14th.

Heshmatollah Falahatpisheh, the head of Majlis national security and foreign policy commission said that the alleged sabotage of the tankers was proof how fragile security was in the Persian Gulf. Falahatpisheh said that the attack was performed by the “third party”.

On June 12, a fire that broke out on an Iranian oil platform of the South Pars gas field in the Persian Gulf and was subsequently contained and no fatalities were reported. Iran’s Students News Agency ISNA said the fire had been contained. State TV said the cause of the fire was under investigation and there were no reports of disruptions to operations at the field.

On June 13, another suspicious incident took place in the Gulf of Oman. Marshall Islands-flagged Front Altair and Panama-flagged Kokuka Courageous oil tankers were rocked by explosions. This development also appeared to be surrounded by multiple speculations immidiately after first reports about the situation. The initial versions were varrying from a torpedo attack to naval mines with the aforementioned tendency regarding the supposed Iranian involvement.

The incident happened during a visit of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to Iran. The Kokuka Courageous is owned by Japanese company Kokuka Sangyo Ltd.

What Is Behind Attacks On Tankers In Persian Gulf Region

Image source: AFP

What Is Behind Attacks On Tankers In Persian Gulf Region

AP Photo / ISNA

Both Iran and the US released contradictory statements claiming that their naval forces had  rescued crew members of the tankers. Nonetheless, once again no casualties were reported in the supposed attack.

Later on the same day, State Secretary Mike Pompeo blamed Iran for the attack. He claimed that Iran wants to end “successful maximum pressure campaign” of the US sanctions.

“This is only the latest in the series of attacks instigated by the Republic of Iran and its surrogates against American allies and interests. They should be understood in the context of four years of unprovoked aggression against freedom-loving nations,” he said.

Dryad Global@GlobalDryad

Reports of vessel MT Front Altair being on fire & adrift at position 2527N 05722E are being investigated. No cause has been positively confirmed. Latest information will be communicated when available. Contact our team via 

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Iran once again denied its involvement in such developments. Foreign Minister Javad Zarif labeled the incident as “suspicious” hinting that this may have been a provocation.

Javad Zarif


Reported attacks on Japan-related tankers occurred while PM @AbeShinzo was meeting with Ayatollah @khamenei_ir for extensive and friendly talks.

Suspicious doesn’t begin to describe what likely transpired this morning.

Iran’s proposed Regional Dialogue Forum is imperative.

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On June 14, Washington claimed that it has evidence confirming the Iranian involvement in the June 13 incident. According  to a statement by US Central Command, Iranian forces were spotted removing “a probable unexploded limpet mine” from Kokuka Courageous.

The video released by Central Command shows a boat coming up to the side of the tanker. An individual stands up on the bow of the boat and removes some object from the tanker’s hull.

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Central Comamnd also released photos supposed to confirm the claim regarding the unexploded mine.

What Is Behind Attacks On Tankers In Persian Gulf Region

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What Is Behind Attacks On Tankers In Persian Gulf Region

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The full text of the  Central Command statement:

“U.S. Naval Forces in the region received two separate distress calls at 6:12 a.m. local time from the motor tanker (M/T) Altair and a second one at 7a.m. local time from the M/T Kokuka Courageous.

Both vessels were in international waters in the Gulf of Oman approximately 10 nautical miles apart at the time of the distress calls. USS Bainbridge was approximately 40 nautical miles away from the M/T Altair at the time of the attack, and immediately began closing the distance.

At 8:09 a.m. local time a U.S. aircraft observed an IRGC Hendijan class patrol boat and multiple IRGC fast attack craft/fast inshore attack craft (FAC/FIAC) in the vicinity of the M/T Altair.

At 9:12 a.m. local time a U.S. aircraft observes the FAC/FIAC pull a raft from the M/T Altair from the water.

At 9:26 a.m. local time the Iranians requested that the motor vessel Hyundai Dubai, which had rescued the sailors from the M/T Altair, to turn the crew over to the Iranian FIACs. The motor vessel Hyundai Dubai complied with the request and transferred the crew of the M/T Altair to the Iranian FIACs.

At 11:05 a.m. local time USS Bainbridge approaches the Dutch tug Coastal Ace, which had rescued the crew of twenty-one sailors from the M/T Kokuka Courageous who had abandoned their ship after discovering a probable unexploded limpet mine on their hull following an initial explosion.

While the Hendijan patrol boat appeared to attempt to get to the tug Coastal Ace before USS Bainbridge, the mariners were rescued by USS Bainbridge at the request of the master of the M/T Kokuka Courageous. The rescued sailors are currently aboard USS Bainbridge.

At 4:10 p.m. local time an IRGC Gashti Class patrol boat approached the M/T Kokuka Courageous and was observed and recorded removing the unexploded limpet mine from the M/T Kokuka Courageous.

The U.S. and our partners in the region will take all necessary measures to defend ourselves and our interests.  Today’s attacks are a clear threat to international freedom of navigation and freedom of commerce.

The U.S. and the international community, stand ready to defend our interests, including the freedom of navigation.

The United States has no interest in engaging in a new conflict in the Middle East. However, we will defend our interests.

– attributable to Capt. Bill Urban, Lead Spokesman for U.S. Central Command”

Nonetheless, this version faced a serious scepticism among more or less independent media outlets, and even the owner and operator of the Kokuka Courageous and European allies of the US.

“The video is not enough. We can understand what is being shown, sure, but to make a final assessment, this is not enough for me,” German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said.

Nathalie Tocci, a senior adviser to European foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini also avoided to blame Iran for the situation directly.

“Before we blame someone, we need credible evidence,” the official said.

Yutaka Katada, the president of Kokuka Sangyo, said on June 14 that he doesn’t completely believe the US version of events. Katada called reports of a mine attack “false” pointing an obvious reason – a mine doesn’t damage a ship above sea level, like what was seen with Kokuka Courageous.

“A mine doesn’t damage a ship above sea level,” he said “We aren’t sure exactly what hit, but it was something flying towards the ship.”

He added that sailors on board the ship saw “flying objects” just before Kokuka Courageous was hit. This is another evidence suggesting the vessel wasn’t damaged by mines, but by objects that could have been fired from a distance.

What Is Behind Attacks On Tankers In Persian Gulf Region

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On June 15, the media hysteria continued. CNN claimed that Iranian forces attempted to shoot down a US drone in the area:

“In the hours before the attack on the two tankers in the Gulf of Oman on Thursday, the Iranians spotted a US drone flying overhead and launched a surface-to-air missile at the unmanned aircraft, a US official told CNN.

The missile missed the drone and fell into the water, the official said.

Prior to taking fire, the American MQ-9 Reaper drone observed Iranian vessels closing in on the tankers, the official added, though the source did not say whether the unmanned aircraft saw the boats conducting an actual attack.

Still, it is the first claim that the US has information of Iranian movements prior to the attack.”

It’s expected that soon the English-speaking audience will get more “revelations” and “details” regarding the incident form anonymous sources of MSM outlets. These reports would be a logical continuation of the previous series of media hysteria on supposed Iranian preparations to attack US forces and infrastructure in the Middle East fueled by the Washington establishment and MSM.

The “Iran is readying for an attack” propaganda campaign was used by the US to justify its ongoing military buildup in the region.

  • On May 25, President Donald Trump declared that the US is sending 1,500 troops, 12 fighter jets, manned and unmanned surveillance aircraft, and a number of military engineers to counter Iran. Trump also approved an $8 billion sale of precision guided missiles and other military support to Saudi Arabia.
  • The Abraham Lincoln carrier strike group and the USS Arlington amphibious transport dock, which carries marines, amphibious vehicles, and rotary aircraft, as well as the Patriot missiles, were deployed near the Persian Gulf.
  • A strategic bomber task force was deployed at the US airbase Al Udeid in Qatar.

Taking into account the military and political situation established in the region, and the obvious loopholes in Washington’s version of the June 13 ‘attack’, it’s quite possible it was a pre-planned provocation. Furthermore, the main side interested in this development is the US. It allows it to pursue several important goals:

  • The growing tensions in the Persian Gulf region allows the Trump administration to continue exploiting the “Iranian threat” to justify its internal and foreign policies. Inside the US, it will allow Washinton to increase spending on military-industrial complex even further. In terms of the foreign policy, the US got an additional justification to continue its hard-core anti-Iranian and pro-Israeli policy as well as to boost military and diplomatic presence in the Middle East.
  • The geoeconomic goal of this provocation is to create tensions in the Persian Gulf region and near it (the western part of Indian Ocean). The growing threat to maritime security would increase the coast of logistical costs for key oil consumers. DHT Holdings and Heidmar, two of the biggest oil tankers operators in the world, have suspended new bookings to the Middle East and the Persian Gulf. The oil price gew. Insurance rates for logistical operations in the region are also expected to grow. This situation directly impacts China, one of the key oil consumers, and European states with a large industrial potential, like Germany. The pressure on possible economic competitors through economic (tariffs and sanctions), military and diplomatic means are the consistent policy of the Trump administration.

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Iran has strongly denied its involvement in the attack. Nonetheless, it also played a role in the current tensions through its allies in Yemen. Over the past months, Ansar Allah (the Houthis) has drastically increased the number of missile and drone attacks on key infrastructure objects in Saudi Arabia.

The Iranian leadership would also use the threat of an aggressive and artful enemy (the US-Israeli alliance) to justify its policies and boost influence on Shia armed groups and movements across the Greater Middle East, first of all in Yemen and Iraq.

Ansar Allah, supported by Iran, will likely continue strident and painful attacks on Saudi Arabia. In the event of the further escalation of the regional situation, Teheran may even use some of its allied groups for attacks on US forces or infrastructure objects.

Strategically, Iran will focus on developing asymmetric means and measures, including tactical missile forces and a mosquito-craft fleet. The chosen asymmetric responses will be in level with Iran’s economic capabilities and capable of delivering a blow to the US in the event of a hot conflict.