2019 Gulf of Oman incident

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2019 Gulf of Oman incident
Fajireh incident 2.jpg
A Michel, seen listing after the attack, is one of four commercial ships damaged in the incident.
DateMay 12, 2019 (2019-05-012)
Location
25°11′16.98″N 56°21′35.04″E / 25.1880500°N 56.3597333°E / 25.1880500; 56.3597333Coordinates: 25°11′16.98″N 56°21′35.04″E / 25.1880500°N 56.3597333°E / 25.1880500; 56.3597333
Belligerents
 Iran (alleged by the United States, Saudi Arabia, and a Norwegian insurer)[1][2][3]

Commercial ships flagged in:

Casualties and losses
4 commercial ships damaged.[4]

The Gulf of Oman incident was a maritime incident off Fujairah's territorial waters in the Gulf of Oman that resulted in damage to four commercial ships on 12 May 2019. The ships included two Saudi Arabian registered oil tankers, a Norwegian registered oil tanker, and an Emirati registered bunkering ship. The ships were anchored off the United Arab Emirates territorial waters for bunkering in Port of Fujairah.[4][5][6] The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the United Arab Emirates reported that the ships had been subject to a "sabotage attack" but did not elaborate on who was responsible or how the sabotage took place.[7][6] The United Arab Emirates launched a joint investigation probe with United States and France.[8] The initial investigation assessment determined that 5-to-10-foot (1.5 to 3.0 m) holes near or below all the ships' waterlines were likely caused by explosive charges.[9]

The incident occurred amid increasing tension between the United States and Iran in the Persian Gulf region, leading U.S. officials to suspect Iran of being behind the attack. The initial assessment by the US blamed Iran or Iranian-backed proxies of causing the attack.[9] The United Arab Emirates government did not make accusations, stating that the report of the investigation probe must first be finalized.[10] The government of Iran called for an international investigation of the incident, describing it as a possible false flag operation.[5][4][11]

Background[edit]

In the days before the incident, the United States had warned that Iran or its proxies could target marine traffic in the region and deployed naval forces to counter what it called "clear indications" of a threat.[12]

Incident[edit]

Damage to the Andrea Victory, one of four oil tankers attacked.

On morning local time on 12 May 2019 a pro-Hezbollah news channel Al Mayadeen falsely reported that seven oil tankers were involved in an explosion in the Port of Fujairah. The news report was quickly picked up by Iranian based Press TV and other news outlets. The United Arab Emirates denied any explosions on the port and stated that the port continues to operate normally. The UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation later released a statement that four ships off the port of Fujairah outside the UAE territorial waters were targeted in a "sabotage attack". One ship was flying the UAE flag and another was flying the Norwegian flag while two Saudi oil tankers were also among the targeted ships. No causalities were reported and no oil or chemical spills occurred.[13] Saudi Arabian Minister of Energy, Industry and Mineral Resources and chairman of Saudi Aramco, Khalid al-Falih, stated that two of the damaged ships were Saudi owned oil tankers. "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", he added.[4] The vessels were later identified as the Saudi-flagged Almarzoqah and Amjad, the UAE-flagged A. Michel and the Norway-flagged Andrea Victory.[14]

Thome Ship Management, the firm which owns the Norwegian ship, reported that their ship had been "struck by an unknown object on the waterline" while anchored off Fujairah.[4]

Investigation[edit]

The UAE requested assistance from the US in launching an investigation probe to determine the cause of the damage. The assessment determined that 5-to-10-foot (1.5 to 3.0 m) holes near or below all the ships water line were likely caused by explosive charges. The US military team that assessed the blasts initial investigation blamed Iran or Iranian-backed proxies of causing the attack.[15] The US issued new warnings to commercial ship of acts of sabotage targeting ships in the Middle East.[16] Iran called the idea that it would target marine traffic "nonsense" and called for a full investigation into the incident.[12]

The United Arab Emirates government reiterated that the incident would be investigated "in cooperation with local and international bodies".[6][5][7] The incident occurred at a time when tensions between the U.S. and Iran had increased in the Middle East.[6] The Pentagon dispatched an aircraft carrier, a Patriot missile battery and a squadron of B-52 bombers to the region.[6][5] France, Norway, and Saudi Arabia also joined in investigating the cause of the damage.[17]

The Norwegian insurer report on the incident concluded that Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) are “highly likely” to have facilitated the attacks.[2]

Aftermath[edit]

Economic effects[edit]

After this incident, the price of oil rose more than $1 per barrel. Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih said one Saudi oil tanker was on its way to Aramco's customers in the United States, and that the explosions did serious damage to the vessels’ structures.[5] Also, Dubai and Abu Dhabi stock markets saw their biggest drops in 2019, with Dubai falling 4% and the Saudi markets falling 3.6%.[5]

As a result of the incident the United States Maritime Administration (MARAD) issued an alert to all ships off the coast of the United Arab Emirate due to "acts of sabotage"[18] and suggested caution be exercised for "at least the next week".[19]

Increase in Iranian-American tensions[edit]

On May 15, 2019, the United States Department of State ordered all non-emergency, non-essential government employees at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad and the Erbil consulate offices to leave Iraq amid heightened tensions in the Persian Gulf between the United States and Iran.[20][21] Germany and the Netherlands suspended military training missions in Iraq, also citing escalating tensions in the region with Iran.[20]

Reactions[edit]

The Secretary-General of the Arab League Ahmed Aboul Gheit said in a statement that these acts are a "serious violation of the freedom and integrity of trade and maritime transport routes" and that the Arab League stands by the UAE and Saudi Arabia "in all measures taken to safeguard their security and interests".[22]

Norway, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates wrote a joint letter to the United Nations Security Council notifying them of the targeting of commercial ships in the Middle East.[23]

The United Arab Emirates minister of foreign affairs Anwar Gargash stated that the UAE is "committed to de-escalation" after increased tensions in the Gulf. Gargash stated "We are not going to jump the gun.. We need to emphasise caution without throwing accusations. We have always called for restraint and we will always call for that." However, he blamed "Iranian behaviour" for the recent increase in tensions in the Gulf region.[24]

The United States president Donald Trump threatened Iran with a "bad problem" following the news of the sabotage attack. When he was asked to clarify what he meant by a "bad problem," Trump responded: “You can figure it out yourself. They know what I mean by it.”[25]

Saudi Arabia, who also had an oil pipeline attacked by Iranian backed Houthi rebels in Yemen around the same time, called for an emergency meeting of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and leaders of the Arab League to discuss the security of the region and the recent "aggressions and their consequences". Saudi minister of state Adel al-Jubeir stated that Saudi Arabia is doing its best to avoid war in the region but stands ready to defend itself from any threats. Saudi Arabia accused Iran of seeking to destabilize the region and urged the international community to take responsibility to stop Iran from doing so.[3]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Iran news: Details of tanker "sabotage" murky as Trump warns Iran and U.S. casts first blame". cbsnews.com. cbsnews. May 14, 2019. Archived from the original on May 17, 2019. Retrieved May 16, 2019.
  2. ^ a b "Exclusive: Insurer says Iran's Guards likely to have organized tanker attacks". Reuters. May 17, 2019.
  3. ^ a b "Saudi Arabia seeks to avert war in the region: Saudi minister Adel Al Jubeir". Gulf News. May 19, 2019.
  4. ^ a b c d e f "Oil tankers 'sabotaged' amid tensions". May 13, 2019. Archived from the original on May 14, 2019. Retrieved May 14, 2019.
  5. ^ a b c d e f El Gamal, Rania; Sharafedin, Bozorgmehr (May 13, 2019). "Saudi oil tankers among those attacked off UAE amid Iran tensions". reuters.com. Reuters. Archived from the original on May 13, 2019. Retrieved May 15, 2019.
  6. ^ a b c d e Sly, Liz (May 13, 2019). "Two Saudi oil tankers, Norwegian ship apparently attacked near the Persian Gulf amid rising Iran tensions". washingtonpost.com. The Washington Post. Archived from the original on May 16, 2019. Retrieved May 16, 2019.
  7. ^ a b Gambrell, Jon (May 12, 2019). "UAE says 4 ships targeted by 'sabotage' off its east coast". AP NEWS. Archived from the original on May 14, 2019. Retrieved May 14, 2019.
  8. ^ "Gargash: Probe into sabotage of ships near Fujairah coast will be complete in days". Gulf News. May 16, 2019. Archived from the original on May 17, 2019. Retrieved May 18, 2019.
  9. ^ a b "First assessment blames Iran for Middle East ship explosions, official says". Fox News. May 13, 2019. Archived from the original on May 17, 2019. Retrieved May 18, 2019.
  10. ^ "UAE's Anwar Gargash urges restraint in the region during 'a very brittle situation'". The National. May 15, 2019. Archived from the original on May 17, 2019. Retrieved May 18, 2019.
  11. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on May 17, 2019. Retrieved May 18, 2019.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  12. ^ a b "US 'blames Iran' for damaged tankers". BBC. May 14, 2019. Archived from the original on May 15, 2019. Retrieved May 14, 2019.
  13. ^ "Four ships targeted in mystery "sabotage attack," says UAE". CNN. May 13, 2019. Archived from the original on May 17, 2019. Retrieved May 18, 2019.
  14. ^ Robertson, Nic (May 15, 2019). "Questions swirl over 'sabotage attack' as Iran tensions ratchet up". CNN. Archived from the original on May 15, 2019. Retrieved May 15, 2019.
  15. ^ "First assessment blames Iran for Middle East ship explosions, official says". Fox News. May 13, 2019. Archived from the original on May 17, 2019. Retrieved May 18, 2019.
  16. ^ "US issues new warning to ships after 'sabotage' off UAE". The Hindu. May 13, 2019.
  17. ^ "Norway to assist UAE investigation into Fujairah oil tanker incident". The National. May 15, 2019.
  18. ^ "The Latest: Norwegian tanker's hull punctured off UAE coast". AP NEWS. May 13, 2019. Archived from the original on May 14, 2019. Retrieved May 14, 2019.
  19. ^ O'Connor, Tom (May 13, 2019). "U.S. and Iran respond to attack that raises fears of conflict near the world's top oil route". Newsweek. Archived from the original on May 14, 2019. Retrieved May 14, 2019.
  20. ^ a b Davison, John; Hosenball, Mark (May 15, 2019). "U.S. pulls staff from Iraq, says Iran gave 'blessing' for tanker attacks". reuters.com. reuters. Archived from the original on May 15, 2019. Retrieved May 16, 2019.
  21. ^ "The Latest: UAE diplomat says coalition will retaliate". apnews.com. APnews. May 14, 2019. Archived from the original on May 16, 2019. Retrieved May 16, 2019.
  22. ^ "Arab League condemns attacks on Saudi tankers". Israel Hayom. May 13, 2019. Archived from the original on May 14, 2019. Retrieved May 14, 2019.
  23. ^ "UAE, Saudi and Norway notify UN of attacks on oil tankers". Khaleej Times. May 17, 2019.
  24. ^ "UAE says 'committed to de-escalation' after ship sabotage attacks". Arabian Business. May 15, 2019.
  25. ^ "'They're not going to be happy.' Trump threatens Iran over reports of sabotaged oil tankers". USA Today. May 13, 2019.