The Saudis have claimed two tankers in the Persian Gulf were hit by sabotage. AFP reports:
Saudi Arabia said Monday two of its oil tankers were damaged in “sabotage attacks” in the Gulf as tensions soared in a region already shaken by a standoff between the United States and Iran.
It came as US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo scrapped a planned visit to Moscow to head to Brussels instead for talks with European officials on Iran.
Tehran called for an investigation into the “alarming” attacks and warned of “adventurism” by foreign players to disrupt maritime security.
The United States has already strengthened its military presence in the region, including deploying a number of strategic B-52 bombers in response to alleged Iranian threats.
Saudi Arabia, the Islamic republic’s regional arch-rival, condemned “the acts of sabotage which targeted commercial and civilian vessels near the territorial waters of the United Arab Emirates,” a foreign ministry source said.
“This criminal act constitutes a serious threat to the security and safety of maritime navigation and adversely impacts regional and international peace and security,” the source added.
The UAE said on Sunday that four commercial vessels of various nationalities had been targeted by acts of sabotage off the emirate of Fujairah.
Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih said the two tankers suffered “significant damage” but there were no casualties or any oil spill.
“Two Saudi oil tankers were subjected to a sabotage attack in the exclusive economic zone of the United Arab Emirates, off the coast of the Emirate of Fujairah, while on their way to cross into the Arabian Gulf,” the SPA state news agency quoted Falih as saying.
Fujairah port is the only terminal in the UAE located on the Arabian Sea coast, bypassing the Strait of Hormuz, through which most Gulf oil exports pass.
Iran has repeatedly threatened to close the strait in case of a military confrontation with the United States.
Any closure of the Persian Gulf would have a major effect on the world’s oil trade. The strategic choke point at the Strait of Hormuz is the most likely place for any confrontation.