On The Brink: U.S. Issues Warning After Saudi Tankers Presumably Damaged By Iran, Fears That Tehran ‘May Fire Rockets At Israel’

US issues warning as Saudi Arabia says 2 oil tankers damaged by sabotage attacks
Saudi Arabia said Monday two of its oil tankers were sabotaged off the coast of the United Arab Emirates in attacks that caused “significant damage” to the vessels, one of them as it was en route to pick up Saudi oil to take to the US.Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih’s comments came as the US issued a new warning to sailors and the UAE’s regional allies condemned the reported sabotage Sunday of four ships off the coast of the port city of Fujairah. The announcement came just hours after Iranian and Lebanese media outlets aired false reports of explosions at the city’s port.Emirati officials have declined to elaborate on the nature of the sabotage or say who might have been responsible. However, the reports come as the US has warned ships that “Iran or its proxies” could be targeting maritime traffic in the region, and as America is deploying an aircraft carrier and B-52 bombers to the Persian Gulf to counter alleged threats from Tehran. Tensions have risen in the year since US President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers, restoring American sanctions that have pushed Iran’s economy into crisis. Last week, Iran warned it would begin enriching uranium at higher levels in 60 days if world powers failed to negotiate new terms for the deal. In his statement, al-Falih said the attacks on the two tankers happened at 6 a.m. Sunday. “One of the two vessels was on its way to be loaded with Saudi crude oil from the port of Ras Tanura, to be delivered to Saudi Aramco’s customers in the United States,” al-Falih said. “Fortunately, the attack didn’t lead to any casualties or oil spill; however, it caused significant damage to the structures of the two vessels.” Saudi Arabia did not identify the vessels involved, nor did it say whom it suspected of carrying out the alleged sabotage. Underlining the regional risk, the general-secretary of the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council described the alleged sabotage as a “serious escalation” in an overnight statement. “Such irresponsible acts will increase tension and conflicts in the region and expose its peoples to great danger,” Abdullatif bin Rashid al-Zayani said US-Iran conflict could break out ‘by accident,’ Britain warns Britain warned Monday that conflict might break out “by accident” between the United States and Iran amid rising tensions, as European Union powers gathered to thrash out ways to keep the nuclear deal with the Islamic Republic afloat. The warning came after the United States announced the deployment of the USS Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier strike group to the Persian Gulf to counter an alleged but still-unspecified threat from Iran, the latest in a long line of such deployments to the strategic region. “We are very worried about the risk of a conflict happening by accident, with an escalation that is unintended really on either side but ends with some kind of conflict,” British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt told reporters in Brussels. “What we need is a period of calm to make sure that everyone understands what the other side is thinking,” Hunt said. He added that he would “be sharing those concerns” Monday with European partners and visiting US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. The United States pulled out of the 2015 nuclear accord a year ago, saying the deal does nothing to stop Iran developing missiles or destabilizing the Middle East, while not going far enough in preventing the Iranians from ever obtaining nuclear weapons. The Europeans insist the agreement was never meant to address the missile and regional issues but has been effective in curbing Iran’s nuclear ambitions. Tensions mounted last week, when Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said that signatories to the deal now have 60 days to come up with a plan to shield his country from the sanctions imposed by US President Donald Trump. Amid US-Iran tension, Israeli minister fears Tehran ‘may fire rockets at Israel’
Israel’s energy minister, a confidant of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, warned Sunday that escalating tensions between the US and Iran may lead the Islamic Republic to launch a missile assault against Israel.“Things are heating up,” Yuval Steinitz told the Ynet news site. “I wouldn’t rule anything out. Iran may fire rockets at Israel.”Steinitz added that Iran may also choose to attack Israel by activating its proxies, Lebanon’s Hezbollah or Gaza’s Islamic Jihad.

“The American sanctions are breaking the neck of the Iranian economy, and a new and stronger wave [of sanctions] is still to come,” he warned, suggesting that the danger was unlikely to pass in the near future. Speaking later Sunday to the Kan state radio station, Steinitz stressed that he was not privy to any particular intelligence information on Iranian plans, but noted that Iran was facing drastic economic pressure and “anything could happen” in such a climate. The Iranians could “go crazy” and “declare war on the whole Middle East,” he said. There were some in Iran who recognized the imperative to dismantle their rogue nuclear program, and others who would seek to retain it in the hope that the regime could weather the current economic crisis.
Steinitz’s comments follow a report on Israel’s Channel 13 on Friday that said Israel had warned the US that Iran was contemplating targeting Saudi oil production facilities.
The unsourced report said the Iranians were “considering various hostile acts” against American or American-allied targets. Tehran had looked at targeting American bases in the Gulf, but that had been deemed too drastic a step, it claimed.
The main target then became “Saudi oil production facilities,” the report said. Such a strike would also send world oil prices soaring and enable Iran to get more income from its oil sales, the report added.
Channel 13 also quoted unnamed Arab intelligence sources as saying there was a debate raging in the Iranian leadership about striking US and US-allied targets, with some in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps pushing for attacks, including against Israeli targets, while others cautioned that it would be “suicidal” to get into a serious military conflict with the US. Earlier last week, the same channel was the first to report that the Israeli Mossad had tipped off the White House two weeks ago about an Iranian plan to attack either a US or US-allied target. That earlier report did not specify potential targets for such an ostensible attack. On Friday, the US Maritime Administration warned that Iran could try to attack American commercial vessels, including oil tankers, Reuters reported. On Sunday, the move was dismissed by the head of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as “psychological war.” The Pentagon’s deployment of the USS Lincoln, Major General Hossein Salami told lawmakers at a parliament session in Tehran, was part of the American military’s regular rotation schedule. “Commander Salami, with attention to the situation in the region, presented an analysis that the Americans have started a psychological war because the comings and goings of their military is a normal matter,” Reuters quoted parliamentary leadership spokesman Behrouz Nemati as saying, summarizing Salami’s comments to the parliament’s ICANA news site. On Thursday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo threatened a “swift and decisive” American response to any attack by Iran. “The regime in Tehran should understand that any attacks by them or their proxies of any identity against US interests or citizens will be answered with a swift and decisive US response,” Pompeo said in a statement.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.