Oil tanker attacks in the Gulf of Oman: Saudi Arabia urges a "decisive" response

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Media CaptionSecurity correspondent Frank Gardner examines the evidence the United States shows proves Iran's involvement in Thursday's attacks

Saudi Arabia urged a "swift and decisive" response to the recent attacks on oil tankers in the area.

Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih warned of a threat to energy supplies and market stability.

On Thursday, two oilmen were attacked in the Gulf of Oman, a month after four others were targeted off the coast of the United Arab Emirates.

The United States has accused Iran of denying any involvement. The attacks come amid growing tensions between the two.

Oil prices rose by as much as 4% after Thursday's accident.

The United States has produced a video that suggests showing Iranian forces in a small boat taking an unexploded mine from the hull of one of the ships after Thursday's attacks. But he provided no evidence for the alleged involvement of Iran in previous attacks in the territorial waters of the United Arab Emirates.

Relations between the United States and Iran have deteriorated significantly since US president Donald Trump took office in 2017. He abandoned a nuclear deal and significantly strengthened sanctions against Iran.

The video published by the United States on Thursday is rather more convincing than the circumstantial evidence provided previously.

The small white patrol in the video is typical of the type used by the Iranian Navy of the IRGC (Revolutionary Guards) in the Gulf. In recent years, the IRGC Marina has gradually supplanted the conventional Iranian navy along the entire coast of the Iranian Gulf, from the border with Iraq in the north to Pakistan and the Arabian Sea. His forces have built a formidable flotilla of small, high-speed, difficult to locate, armed with mines, missiles, torpedoes and drones.

The IRGC commandos regularly practice secret operations and simulated attacks. Some of their aircraft have arrived in the immediate vicinity of US Navy warships in the Gulf in recent years and there remains the risk of a clash at sea.

Iran has denied any involvement in Thursday's attacks, saying they were carried out by someone trying to derail Iran's relations with the international community. There will probably be doubts in Tehran that this video is authentic.


What we know about Thursday's explosions

Second the report of events in the United StatesUS naval forces in the region received relief requests from the Norwegian-owned Front Altair at 06:12 (02:12 GMT) and from the Japanese Kokuka Courageous at 7:00 am, following explosions, and headed to ;area.

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Media CaptionFilming on Iranian TV shows a burning oil tanker

He said the USS Bainbridge observed Iranian military ships operating in the area in the hours following the explosions, and later removed the unexploded mine from the side of the Courageous Kokuka.

The crews of both ships were evacuated to other nearby ships. Both Iran and the United States subsequently published the photos showing the crew members saved aboard their ships.

The BSM naval management, which manages the Courageous Kokuka, said the ship's crew abandoned the ship after observing a fire and an unexploded mine.

However, Yutaka Katada, president of the ship's operator, Kokuka Sangyo, said the crew members reported "that the ship was attacked by a flying object".

The Courageous Kokuka was about 30 km (20 miles) from the Iranian coast when it sent its emergency call.

The Front Altair carried oil, a petroleum product, from the United Arab Emirates to Taiwan. The Kokuka Courageous transports methanol from Saudi Arabia to Singapore.

According to global satellite monitoring company Iceye, damage to the Front Altair caused oil to leak into the waters around the ship.

Author image
Iceye

Image caption

A radar satellite image shows suspicious oil spots in the water around the Front Altair


Why are US-Iran tensions so high?

In 2018, the United States withdrew from the reference point of the nuclear agreement reached in 2015 which aimed to curb Iran's nuclear activities. The move has been strongly criticized by a number of countries, including the closest US allies.

In May, President Trump tightened US sanctions against Iran, mainly for its oil sector. Iran then announced that it would suspend some commitments in the nuclear agreement.

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Media CaptionWhy is the Strait of Hormuz important?

In recent months, the United States has strengthened its forces in the Gulf – saying that there was a danger of Iranian attacks. He sent an attack group of aircraft carriers and B-52 bombers to the region.

In response, Iran has accused the United States of aggressive behavior. Those tensions increased considerably after 12 May, limiting the attacks against mines in the United Arab Emirates.

The UAE has accused a nameless "state actor". The United States said the actor was Iran, a charge that Tehran has denied.

While it is not clear why Iran would have made a relatively low level attack on multinational oil tankers, observers have speculated that it could have sent a signal to the forces deployed against it that it is able to stop the expedition there without triggering a war.

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