The Strait of Hormuz will remain open for all vessels, the U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told CBS in an interview this Sunday, adding that Washington was considering its options on the evidently firm belief that Iran was behind the attacks on two tankers that stole headlines last week.
The Strait of Hormuz is the biggest oil chokepoint in the world, with millions of barrels of oil passing it daily, in addition to other cargos. As tensions between the U.S. and Iran have deepened since the re-imposition of sanctions against Iran, Tehran has several times threatened to close off the Strait of Hormuz if pushed too far. So far, it has not acted on these threats.
The latest escalation came after two tankers were hit in the Gulf of Oman. The U.S. Central Command spokesman released a video purporting to show a patrol boat of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard approaching one of the tankers where it “was observed and recorded removing (an) unexploded limpet mine from the M/T Kokuka Courageous.”
Meanwhile, the owner of the Japanese tanker that the U.S. said was on the footage they released today said the crew had reported “flying objects” just before it was hit.
Iran has categorically denied any link to the attacks on the tankers.
While an investigation into the event has yet to be concluded, the U.S. seems ready to strike: a couple of legislators have already called for military action against Iran, and Pompeo, too, told CBS that a military option has been discussed.
Now, the U.S. Secretary of State is on a mission to round up other governments to act against Iran. Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince and UK’s Foreign Minister have already thrown their support behind the idea that Iran was responsible for the attacks, but others are yet to follow and they may be reluctant to do so without more evidence of Iranian involvement.
By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com
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US accusations that Iran was behind the attacks lack proof and credibility because the United States is acting like judge and jury.
To understand who could be behind the attacks on the two tankers, one has to establish the party or parties who could benefit from the attacks. John Bolton and other hawks in the US administration who want the US to go to war against Iran along with Israel have a motive and the technology to mount such attacks. Iran too has the technology but not the motive. What benefit does Iran get from hitting one Japanese-owned tanker at a time when the Prime Minister of Japan was visiting Tehran to mediate between the US and Iran.
If the hawks in the US administration want to pin the blame on Iran as a pretext to taking military action against Iran, the Strait of Hormuz will be closed with a very adverse impact on oil prices and supplies as well as on the global economy depending for how long it will remain closed. Oil prices ranging from $110 to $130 could not be discounted.
The massive forces America is massing in the Gulf could develop a momentum of their own if they stay there long enough.
Dr Mamdouh G Salameh
International Oil Economist
Visiting Professor of Energy Economics at ESCP Europe Business School, London