Troubled waters: Why do tankers sink around the shores of Iran

13.06.2019

One of the tankers of the Norwegian company Frontline sank in the Gulf of Oman. Oil prices soared three percent. Who benefits from the new aggravation in the Middle East?

On May 12, two Saudi and one Norwegian tankers were attacked in the UAE economic zone near the port of Fujairah. Exactly a month later, there are problems again. Today's attack also took place in the Gulf of Oman. According to The Telegraph, in the same place where Iran is accused of using naval mines, which allegedly blew up three tankers in May.

Sailors rescued by Iran

The tankers attacked today, Front Altair and Kokuka Courageous, marched under the flags of the Marshall Islands and Panama. Owned by the Norwegian company Frontline company, Front Altair tanker is allegedly hit by a torpedo.

The second vessel Kokuka Courageous has pierced the hull above the waterline. It was operated by Singapore-based BSM Ship Management and was supposed to deliver oil from Saudi Arabia to Singapore. A company statement said that 23 crew members left the ship.

At the time of the attack tankers were 26 kilometers from the coast of Iran and 130 km from the United Arab Emirates. According to IRNA Iranian agency, Iran saved 44 sailors of two damaged tankers and delivered them to the South Iranian port of Jask.

Sunni-Shiite conflict

The attack occurred in the same place where the Saudi tankers attacked last month. This is the Gulf of Oman, through which the Sunni monarchies - the UAE and Saudi Arabia - export their oil to Europe and Asia. In the previous attack, they blamed Shiite Iran. So we can assume that this time Tehran will be declared the culprit.

The incident with tankers and the geography of events - regardless of who is to blame - fits into the Iranian-Saudi confrontation, in which Israel, the United States and the United Arab Emirates are entirely on the side of Riyadh. Three countries are alarmed by the increasing Iranian influence around the perimeter of the Middle East - from Syria and Lebanon to Yemen and Qatar. Saudis are unhappy that Arab countries are loyal to the Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI). At the last summit of the League of Arab States in Mecca, Iraq and Qatar refused to sign a joint statement calling Iran responsible for all the troubles in the region.

"The pain point" of Saudi Arabia

Most ambitious Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman is worried about Iran’s gain in Yemen. Four years have passed since the beginning of the intervention of the United Arab Emirates and their allies in a neighboring country, but the Hussite rebels from the Ansar Alla movement still control the north-west of the country, with its capital Sanaa. Pro-Iranian Hussites not only prevent the Pro-Saud government of Abd-Rabbu Mansur Hadi from restoring control over Yemen, but they are also terrorizing Saudi Arabia. In May, when tankers attacked off the coast of the United Arab Emirates, the Houthis with the help of drones damaged the East-West oil pipeline. And just yesterday, Yemeni rebels launched rockets at Abha airport in the south of the kingdom and wounded 26 civilians, reports Wall Street Journal.

Japanese Prime Minister in Tehran

The second important point that is worth paying attention to is that one of the tankers attacked was supposed to deliver oil to Japan. The Japanese Minister of Economy Hiroshige Sako has already announced that Tokyo is aware of the attack on the ship carrying the cargo belonging to Japan. Incidentally, yesterday the Prime Minister of the Land of the Rising Sun arrived in Iran for the first time after the 1979 Islamic Revolution. At the time of the terrorist attack, Shinzo Abe was still in Tehran. The purpose of the visit was to ease tensions in the Middle East.

Although Iran accounts for only 5% of all of Japan’s imported oil, Tokyo is interested in diversifying its suppliers in order not to depend on the UAE and Saudi Arabia. The latter provide half of the imports to Japan. Although the United States has lifted the exception for Japan from under its oil sanctions against Iran, Tokyo expects the revival of the Joint Comprehensive Action Plan (JCPOA). Abe asks Iranians not to withdraw from the "nuclear deal." However, today's incident in the Gulf of Oman can dissuade the Japanese leadership of the reliability of Iran and encourage them to side with its enemies - Israel, the United States and the floodplains.

Deprive Iran of support for Japan and Germany

A couple of days before Abe, the German Foreign Minister went to Iran, who also criticized the United States for quitting JCPOA. Heiko Maas also asked his colleague Mohammad Javad Zarif not to break the “nuclear deal” in order to prevent the escalation of the conflict between Washington and Tehran.

Iran’s support by the two main allies of the United States, Japan and the Federal Republic of Germany, contradicts the US blackout strategy. Therefore, it is important for them and their regional allies in the person of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyah, Bin Salman and the UAE emirs that Europe and Asia are on the “right” side of history. Recently, they were joined by Iran’s main trade partner, China. Under the fear of US sanctions, it also refused to buy Iranian "black gold".

Beneficiaries

Who attacked the ship in the Gulf of Oman, remains to be seen. But logic suggests that Riyadh will accuse Tehran. Although Iran has repeatedly threatened to block the Strait of Hormuz, through which one third of world oil supplies pass, the exacerbation in the region is the least advantageous to Iran. In addition, US sanctions, which support the main trade partners of Iran, deepen the economic crisis in Iran.

The main beneficiaries of the sabotage of two tankers may be Israel and the Sunni monarchies, dissatisfied with the weakening of Trump’s pressure on Tehran and his recent statement about the possibility of negotiations with Ruhani without preliminary conditions.