Yemen's Houthi rebels strike Saudi airport ahead of Mike Pompeo visit

The Japan Times

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - One person was killed and seven others were wounded in an attack by Iranian-allied Yemeni rebels on an airport in the kingdom Sunday evening as U.S. Secretary of State was on his way to the country for talks on Iran, Saudi Arabia said. Regional tensions have flared in recent days, The U.S. abruptly called off military strikes against Iran in response to the shooting down of an unmanned American surveillance drone. The Trump administration has vowed to combine a "maximum pressure" campaign of economic sanctions with a buildup of American forces in the region, following the U.S. withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers. A new set of U.S. sanctions on Iran are expected to be announced Monday. The Sunday attack by the Yemeni rebels, known as Houthis, targeted the Saudi airport in Abha.


Saudi crown prince accuses rival Iran of tanker attacks

The Japan Times

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said in remarks published Sunday that the kingdom will not hesitate to confront threats to its security and joined the U.S. in accusing its bitter rival, Iran, of being behind the attacks on two vessels traveling near the Strait of Hormuz, a vital trade route for Arabian energy exports in Asia. The U.S. has blamed Iran for the suspected attacks on two oil tankers, denouncing what it called a campaign of "escalating tensions." The U.S. alleges Iran used limpet mines to target the tankers, pointing to black-and-white footage it captured that American officials describe as Iranian Revolutionary Guard troops removing an unexploded mine from the Japanese-operated tanker Kokuka Courageous. The Japanese tanker's crew members described "flying objects" as having targeted the vessel, seemingly contradicting the assertion that limpet mines were used. In an interview with the Arabic-language newspaper Asharq al-Awsat, Prince Mohammed said Iran disrespected the visit to Tehran by the Japanese prime minister last week and responded to his diplomatic efforts to reduce regional tensions by attacking the two tankers.


Saudi seeks oil supply protection as U.S and Iran face off

The Japan Times

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - Saudi Arabia called for swift action to secure Persian Gulf energy supplies and joined the United States in blaming Iran for attacks on two oil tankers in a vital shipping route that have raised fears of broader confrontation in the region. Thursday's tanker attacks in the Gulf of Oman exacerbated the antagonistic fallout from similar blasts in May that crippled four vessels. Washington, already embroiled in a standoff with Iran over its nuclear program, has blamed Tehran and Saudi Arabia's crown prince also accused Iran on Saturday. Iran has denied any role in the strikes on the tankers south of the Strait of Hormuz, a major transit route for oil from Saudi Arabia, the world's biggest crude exporter, and other producers in the region. Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih said there must be "a rapid and decisive response to the threat" to energy supplies, market stability and consumer confidence, his ministry said on Twitter.


Damaged tankers reach safe waters after Persian Gulf attacks

The Japan Times

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - Two damaged tankers arrived safely Sunday at locations off the Emirati coast after they were rocked by explosions in Gulf waters, in an incident Saudi Arabia blamed on its regional arch-rival Iran. The Japanese-owned Kokuka Courageous was carrying highly flammable methanol through the Gulf of Oman on Thursday when it came under attack along with the Norwegian-operated Front Altair -- the second assault in a month in the strategic shipping lane. U.S. President Donald Trump has said the operation had Iran "written all over it" -- rejecting Tehran's vehement denial -- and Washington's key Gulf ally Saudi Arabia has also lashed out against Tehran. In his first public comments since the attacks, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said in remarks published Sunday that he would not hesitate to tackle any threats to the oil-rich kingdom. "We do not want a war in the region. He said Iran had responded to a visit to Tehran by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe "by attacking two tankers, one of which was Japanese.


Iran downs U.S. surveillance drone, draws warning, then down-playing from Trump

The Japan Times

TEHRAN - Iran's Revolutionary Guard shot down a U.S. surveillance drone Thursday in the Strait of Hormuz, marking the first time the Islamic Republic directly attacked the American military amid tensions over Tehran's unraveling nuclear deal with world powers. The two countries disputed the circumstances leading up to an Iranian surface-to-air missile bringing down the U.S. Navy RQ-4A Global Hawk, an unmanned aircraft with a wingspan larger than a Boeing 737 jetliner and costing over $100 million. Iran said the drone "violated" its territorial airspace, while the U.S. called the missile fire "an unprovoked attack" in international airspace over the narrow mouth of the Persian Gulf and President Donald Trump tweeted that "Iran made a very big mistake!" Trump later appeared to play down the incident, telling reporters in the Oval Office that he had a feeling that "a general or somebody" being "loose and stupid" made a mistake in shooting down the drone. The incident immediately heightened the crisis already gripping the wider region, which is rooted in Trump withdrawing the U.S. a year ago from Iran's 2015 nuclear deal and imposing crippling new sanctions on Tehran.