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An early assessment by U.S. authorities has suggested Iran was behind the attack on tankers off the UAE coast at the port of Fujairah, which Saudi Arabia said had damaged two Saudi vessels, the Wall Street Journal reports, quoting a government official.
Yesterday, Saudi reports about the attack, which Riyadh called a sabotage, pushed oil higher as even the slightest indication that tensions may be flaring up in the Middle East, doing its usual job of putting upward pressure on oil benchmarks.
However, neither Saudi Arabia nor the UAE 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.
Iran, for its part, condemned the attacks and called for an investigation into the event. Interestingly enough, it was Iranian—as well as Lebanese—media that first reported about attacks near Fujairah saying there had been explosions at the port, Ellen R. Wald noted in a report for Forbes yesterday. However, satellite images provided by TankerTrackers.com showed no evidence of explosions in the area.
Things got more confusing after initially neither the UAE authorities nor the Saudis confirmed or denied the reports but later said there had been an act of sabotage without going into details. The UAE sources denied, however, there had been explosions—something easy enough to check.
As usual, social media were quick to react with many blaming the most obvious culprit—Iran—as the “sabotage” came on the heels of U.S. warnings to commercial and military vessels in the Persian Gulf of possible action from Iranian forces. Still, it has yet to be established officially whether Iran would risk tipping the situation further into violence indeed.
The official who spoke to the Wall Street Journal made a point of saying the assessment was not final and declined to speculate about how the United States would respond if this early suggestion is confirmed in later assessments.
By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com
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Irina is a writer for Oilprice.com with over a decade of experience writing on the oil and gas industry.