Monday, May 13, 2019

UAE Commercial Ships Hit By 'Sabotage' Near Strait Of Hormuz

The United Arab Emirates has said that four commercial ships were hit by “sabotage” in its waters, hours after denying reports of explosions at an oil tanker terminal. The incident comes as US/Iran tension ratchets up. 
The four vessels were targeted by “sabotage operations” in waters near the emirate of Fujairah, the country’s foreign ministry said on Sunday. The exact nature of the sabotage was not revealed, nor were the nationalities of the ships. There were no reported casualties.
“Subjecting commercial vessels to sabotage operations and threatening the lives of their crew is considered a dangerous development,” the foreign ministry said in a statement, adding that it is investigating the alleged incident.
The statement came hours after Fujairah’s government denied reports that an explosion had rocked an oil terminal at the emirate’s port. Lebanese broadcaster Mayadeen first reported the explosion, before the story was picked up by Iran’s Press TV. Officials in Fujairah called on the media to “investigate accurately and rely on official sources.”

Although the exact events are unknown, Iranian lawmaker Heshmatollah Falahatpisheh tweeted that “the explosions of Fujairah showed that the security of the south of the Persian Gulf is like glass.”
Should the security situation in the region deteriorate, much is at stake. Fujairah backs on to the Gulf of Oman on the south side of the Strait of Hormuz. With the UAE and Saudi Arabia on one side and Iran on the other, one-third of the world’s oil at sea transits the strait, which is only 39 kilometers wide.
The UAE did not directly blame Iran for the alleged sabotage, but its claim comes just days after the United States Maritime Administration warned that “Iran and/or its regional proxies could take action against US and partner interests, including oil production infrastructure” in the region. Saudi Arabia and the UAE are steadfast American allies.

Egypt, another American ally in the Middle East, sided with the UAE's take on events, condemning the alleged act of sabotage later on Sunday night.

Four cargo ships were hit by “sabotage operations” on May 12 near UAE Gulf of Oman waters off the Fujaira emirate. The UAE Foreign Ministry in Abu Dhabi reported that no injuries or spillage of harmful chemicals or fuel had occurred, indicating that the ships were fuel tankers. Work continued as usual at Fujairah port, the statement said.

The UAE had denied an earlier report by local media of “heavy explosions” at the port of Fujairah early Sunday. According to first reports, US and French warplanes were flyng overhead at the time and from 7 to 10 oil tankers were in flames. The UAE is currently expanding the port to hold the world’s largest crude oil storage facility, capable of storing up to 14 million barrels of oil.

DEBKAfile’s military and intelligence sources report that the UAE ministry’s statement conceals more than it reveals. It is obvious that someone in the Gulf region launched an attack on oil and gas shipping in the region. It can hardly be doubted that the aggressor in this case was Iran or one of its allies or proxies in Tehran’s first major reprisal for US sanctions on its oil exports. Iranian officials have declared that if Tehran can’t export its oil, neither will anyone else. Washington has so far made no response to this attack which has undoubtedly sparked intense deliberations.

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