Saudi Arabia has said two of its oil tankers were attacked by saboteurs near the United Arab Emirates, Reuters reports, adding a statement by the UAE that a total four vessels were attacked off its coast at the port of Fujairah.
The AP quoted a Saudi statement as saying the damages sustained by the two tankers were “significant”.
Neither Saudi Arabia nor the UAE, however, said who was or is most likely to have been behind the attack. The UAE also did not provide any details about the attack saying only that there were no casualties and the port of Fujairah was operating as usual.
Saudi Arabia’s Energy Minister Khalid- al-Falih said in a statement that one of the two vessels attacked at the Fujairah port was en route to Ras Lanuf where it was supposed to load crude oil for the United States.
However, TankerTrackers.com co-founder Samir Madani in a tweet said there were three Saudi tankers docked at Fujairah: one empty after returning from China, another one returning from the Saudi port of Yanbu loaded, and a small petrochemicals tanker.
The AP notes the reports of the attacks came on the heels of a warning issued by the United States to ships in the Persian Gulf regarding possible attacks by “Iran or its proxies” on vessels in the area. The warning came as a U.S. aircraft carrier and B-52 bombers are traveling to the Gulf in pre-emptive response to a possible Iranian move in the region after Tehran once again said it would close the Strait of Hormuz if the U.S. tries to squeeze its oil exports further. Related: Chinese Oil Majors Backtrack On Pledge To Buy Iranian Oil
The Strait of Hormuz is a major oil chokepoint accounting for some 17 million barrels of crude daily. The strait is only 21 miles wide at its narrowest point, but is wide and deep enough to handle even the world’s largest tankers. Alternate routes for oil normally going through this strait are several pipelines, but capacity is limited. Most of the oil exports traveling through this strait are bound for Asian markets.
Iran has threatened to close it off more than once during the years but has never before acted on this threat. However, if the tension between Tehran, its Arab neighbors, and Washington continues to deepen this might change, effectively starting yet another war in the Middle East.
Later in the day, Iran condemned the attack on the vessels in the UAE and called for an investigation into the event, Reuters reported.
By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com
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The first is a warning shot by Iran of what could happen if its oil exports were prevented from passing through the Strait of Hormuz by US warships. The second is that it is part of a psychological warfare being waged on Iran by the United States. Either way, the incident could escalate tension in the Gulf between Iran and the United States. It will most probably have a bullish impact on oil prices and could lead to a steep spike were the US or Saudi Arabia to retaliate.
John Bolton, President Trump’s national security adviser and a fanatic neo- conservative to boot is hell-bent on war with Iran. Even his Boss President Trump said that “he wants me to go to war with Iran”. One must also remember that John Bolton was one of the most zealous plotters of the invasion of Iraq.
Iran will never haphazardly try to close the Strait of Hormuz but it is on record threatening that if its oil imports were prevented from passing the Strait of Hormuz, then it will stop Gulf oil exports passing through the Strait.
US sanctions against Iran have so far failed to adversely impact on Iranian oil exports. Furthermore, the Iran zero exports option is unattainable. If, however, the United States means by its zero option intercepting Iranian crude exports and preventing them from crossing the Strait of Hormuz, then this means war with Iran engulfing the whole Gulf region and also Israel. In such a situation, a mining of the Strait of Hormuz and even attacks on Ras Tannura, Saudi Arabia’s huge oil terminal in the Gulf and the world’s biggest oil terminal and other oil installations in the region would be targeted by Iran.
Dr Mamdouh G Salameh
International Oil Economist
Visiting Professor of Energy Economics at ESCP Europe Business School, London