Emirati officials have declined to elaborate on the nature of the sabotage or say who might have been responsible. However, the reports come as the US has warned ships that “Iran or its proxies” could be targeting maritime traffic in the region, and as America is deploying an aircraft carrier and B-52 bombers to the Persian Gulf to counter alleged threats from Tehran.
Tensions have risen in the year since US President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers, restoring American sanctions that have pushed Iran’s economy into crisis. Last week, Iran warned it would begin enriching uranium at higher levels in 60 days if world powers failed to negotiate new terms for the deal.
In his statement, al-Falih said the attacks on the two tankers happened at 6 a.m. Sunday.
“One of the two vessels was on its way to be loaded with Saudi crude oil from the port of Ras Tanura, to be delivered to Saudi Aramco’s customers in the United States,” al-Falih said. “Fortunately, the attack didn’t lead to any casualties or oil spill; however, it caused significant damage to the structures of the two vessels.”
“We are very worried about the risk of a conflict happening by accident, with an escalation that is unintended really on either side but ends with some kind of conflict,” British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt told reporters in Brussels.
Tensions mounted last week, when Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said that signatories to the deal now have 60 days to come up with a plan to shield his country from the sanctions imposed by US President Donald Trump.
Steinitz added that Iran may also choose to attack Israel by activating its proxies, Lebanon’s Hezbollah or Gaza’s Islamic Jihad.
There were some in Iran who recognized the imperative to dismantle their rogue nuclear program, and others who would seek to retain it in the hope that the regime could weather the current economic crisis.
Steinitz’s comments follow a report on Israel’s Channel 13 on Friday that said Israel had warned the US that Iran was contemplating targeting Saudi oil production facilities.
The unsourced report said the Iranians were “considering various hostile acts” against American or American-allied targets. Tehran had looked at targeting American bases in the Gulf, but that had been deemed too drastic a step, it claimed.
The main target then became “Saudi oil production facilities,” the report said. Such a strike would also send world oil prices soaring and enable Iran to get more income from its oil sales, the report added.
Channel 13 also quoted unnamed Arab intelligence sources as saying there was a debate raging in the Iranian leadership about striking US and US-allied targets, with some in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps pushing for attacks, including against Israeli targets, while others cautioned that it would be “suicidal” to get into a serious military conflict with the US.
Earlier last week, the same channel was the first to report that the Israeli Mossad had tipped off the White House two weeks ago about an Iranian plan to attack either a US or US-allied target. That earlier report did not specify potential targets for such an ostensible attack.
On Thursday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo threatened a “swift and decisive” American response to any attack by Iran.
“The regime in Tehran should understand that any attacks by them or their proxies of any identity against US interests or citizens will be answered with a swift and decisive US response,” Pompeo said in a statement.