The U.S. has video proof, CENTCOM says, that Iran was behind the explosions that rocked two tankers in the Gulf of Oman yesterday.
Reuters reports that U.S. Central Command spokesman Bill Urban late on Thursday released a video saying the footage showed 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.”
Tehran has denied the allegations, calling them “unfounded”, with one senior government official telling the BBC that Iran had no connection to the explosions that pushed crude oil prices up by about US$3 per barrel.
In a statement released today, the Iranian UN missions said, "Iran categorically rejects the US unfounded claim with regard to 13 June oil tanker incidents, and condemns it in the strongest possible terms."
In a column for Bloomberg, commentator Julian Lee noted hours after the explosions that Iran would be the most likely target of blame-laying, but added it was not the only party that could benefit from tanker explosions.
Lee said the benefits for Iran from the attacks would be relatively insignificant but, he said, “There is another group that will benefit from the incident: the people who want to see the U.S. step up its campaign against Iran and move from an economic war to a military one. There are plenty of those, both in the U.S. and among its allies in the Persian Gulf and wider Middle East regions.”
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, CBC reports. This contradicts the information released by the U.S. Central Command, and while it deepens the suspense it also suggests the situation is unlikely to be resolved anytime soon, with tensions in the region likely to remain heightened.
By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com
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Meanwhile, the owner of the Japanese tanker that was hit contradicted the U.S. Central Command video by reporting “flying objects” just before it was hit.
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 and Saudi Arabia all 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.
The attack could have been carried out by the Houthis who possess sophisticated weapon and the ability to use them as evidenced by their attacks on Saudi tankers in the vicinity of Bab Al Mandib Strait a few months ago and their attacks on Saudi military targets and oil installations as well as on Abha airport in Jizan. However, I tend to discount this possibility because they don’t have the naval assets to reach such far away targets in the Gulf of Oman.
On balance, the suspicions could therefore be directed towards the Hawks in the US administration, Israel or Saudi Arabia.
Dr Mamdouh G Salameh
International Oil Economist
Visiting Professor of Energy Economics at ESCP Europe Business School, London