UAE reports rare 'acts of sabotage' against 4 boats off its coast

Tuesday, 14 May, 2019

The tankers were damaged in "a sabotage attack" off the United Arab Emirates coast on Sunday, state-run Saudi Press Agency reported.

One of the two tankers was on its way to be loaded with crude oil from Saudi Ras Tanura oil terminal in the Gulf for customers in the United States, the minister said.

The UAE Foreign Ministry rebutted much more sensational accounts of the sabotage, first reported by the Lebanese satellite channel, Al-Mayadeen, which claimed there had been seven explosions on oil tankers in the port of Fujairah, one of the UAE's seven emirates. Both the UAE and Saudi Arabia are staunch opponents of Iran's government.

"Since early May, there is an increased possibility that Iran and/or its regional proxies could take action against U.S. and partner interests, including oil production infrastructure, after recently threatening to close the Strait of Hormuz", it cautioned. Instead, "the whole world would suffer as the result of a huge shortage of oil and gas - that would be very long-term".

"This obviously ratchets up the tensions considerably", says Gurdon.

The incidents also come after the U.S. Maritime Administration warned in an advisory Iran could go after commercial ships and oil production facilities in the area.

He said such incidents would have a "negative impact. on shipping safety and maritime security" in the Gulf.

Some regional powers are eager to take aim at Iran but the USA is not, believes Mohammad Marandi, a professor at the University of Tehran. The UEA said: "the concerned authorities have taken all necessary measures, and are investigating the incident in cooperation with local and global bodies". Importantly, it is not clear where those behind these blasts came from and obtaining that information is key to the investigation.

The six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) - which includes Saudi Arabia and the UAE - as well as the Arab League condemned Sunday's incident.

Four commercial vessels were targeted by acts of sabotage off the port of Fujairah. The ministry also expressed Saudi Arabia's support of the UAE "in all measures taken to safeguard its security and interests". The Islamic Republic responded by threatening to scale back its obligations under the 2015 nuclear deal.

Mangalore Refinery and Petrochemicals (MRPL) is the only Indian refiner out of four state-held companies that had bought Iranian oil under the sanction waivers to have taken up the Saudi offer for additional crude supplies, and will lift around 2 million barrels in June on top of its normal purchase of 2.5 million barrels, industry sources told Reuters on Monday.

It is "highly doubtful" that there will be such a conflict because "no one would win", including the U.S. itself, Marandi reiterated. No details, however, about the specifics of the damage were released.

But imagining such an outcome to a similar scenario at this point is hard.

Also on Sunday, the United States embassy in Baghdad issued a security alert, advising USA citizens of "heightened tensions in Iraq".

The White House's all-sticks-and-no-carrots approach to Iran one year after the U.S. pulled out of the JCPOA has left Washington without that diplomatic leverage.

It's wise to keep in mind that when communication stops, trouble tends to start.