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Saudi Arabia Denies Any Involvement In Iran Tanker Attack

“We did not engage in such behaviour at all. This is not how we operate and that’s not how we did (it) in the past,” Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister, Adel al-Jubeir, told media in response to questions about the Iranian tanker Sabiti.

According to Iranian media reports, the Sabiti was hit by missiles off the Saudi Arabian coast on Friday. The National Iranian Tanker Company confirmed these reports but denied those of them that said the attacks had originated in Saudi Arabia, Al Jazeera reported.

In fact, Bloomberg reported, citing the Saudi coast guard, the Sabiti had sent a distress signal with a request for assistance. According to the signal, the crew said the front of the tanker was damaged and the vessel was leaking oil.

According to a report by Al Arabiya, the tanker is still leaking oil.

While international media were busy seeking confirmation of the initial reports, Iran’s President on Sunday warned the perpetrators of the attack that there will be a response.

"If a country thinks that it can create instability in the region without getting a response, that would be a sheer mistake," Hassan Rouhani said, but stopped short of naming any country in particular.

Related: Don’t Expect Oil Prices To Go Much Higher This Year

It’s worth noting the attack on the Sabiti came as Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan was on a visit in Iran as mediator between Tehran and Riyadh.

"We do not want a conflict between Saudi Arabia and Iran. We recognize that it's a complex issue, we recognize that, but we feel that this can be resolved through dialogue," Khan said. "But what should never happen is war between Saudi Arabia and Iran."

Meanwhile, oil prices reacted the way they usually react after news of this sort: they jumped on Friday afternoon even before the original reports were confirmed, with the spread between Dubai and Brent narrowing to $2.36 per barrel.

By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com

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  • Mamdouh Salameh on October 14 2019 said:
    Further to my earlier comments, the flag displayed in your article is not Iran's. It is Iraq's which has nothing to do with your article.

    Dr Mamdouh G Salameh
    International Oil Economist
    Visiting Professor of Energy Economics at ESCP Europe Business School, London
  • Mamdouh Salameh on October 14 2019 said:
    Saudi Arabia couldn’t have been involved in the attack on the Iranian oil tanker in the Red Sea for two reasons. The first is that Saudi Arabia has been taking tentative steps to disengage from the Yemen war and the US-Israeli axis against Iran and also to reduce tension with Iran. Moreover, the attack on the tanker came as Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan was on a visit to Iran as mediator between Tehran and Riyadh. This isn’t dissimilar to the attack on two oil tankers one of which was Japanese in the Gulf of Oman at the time the Japanese Prime Minister was on a mission to Iran to reduce tension between the United States and Iran.

    The second reason is that the Saudi oil industry has become hostage to potential attacks by the Houthis of Yemen and Saudi Arabia wouldn’t, therefore, want to risk further damage to its oil installations.

    That leaves two suspects: the United States and Israel. While the United States may have the motive and the desire to retaliate against Iran having accused it of being behind the attacks on four tankers off Fujairah, two tankers in the Gulf of Oman and the latest attacks on Saudi oil infrastructure, it has nevertheless come to the conclusion that any retaliation against Iran even a symbolic one will mean war with Iran, something President Trump has been avoiding. That is why I discount the possibility that the United States was behind the attack on the Iranian tanker.

    This leaves Israel as a suspect with a strong motive. Israel benefits from escalating tension between the United States and Iran and also between Saudi Arabia and Iran since its ultimate objective is to precipitate a war between the US and Iran with the hope that the US will destroy Iranian nuclear installations. Furthermore, Israel wants to scuttle any rapprochement between Saudi Arabia and Iran. It isn’t a coincidence that the attacks on the two tankers in the Gulf of Oman and the one on the Iranian tanker in the Red Sea happened at a time when the Prime Ministers of Japan and Pakistan were visiting Tehran trying to reduce US/Iran tension and Saudi/Iran tension respectively.

    Dr Mamdouh G Salameh
    International Oil Economist
    Visiting Professor of Energy Economics at ESCP Europe Business School, London

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