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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.


Trump says 'Iran did do it,' as U.S. seeks support on Gulf oil tanker attacks

The Japan Times

WASHINGTON/DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - The United States on Friday blamed Iran for attacks on two oil tankers at the entrance to the Gulf and said it was seeking international consensus about the threat to shipping, despite Tehran denying involvement in the explosions at sea. Thursday's attacks raised fears of a confrontation in the vital oil shipping route at a time of increased tension between Iran and the United States over U.S. sanctions and military moves in the Middle East, Tehran's proxy groups in the region and its nuclear program. "Iran did do it and you know they did it because you saw the boat," U.S. President Donald Trump told Fox News. He was referring to a video released on Thursday by the U.S. military which said it showed Iran's Revolutionary Guard were behind the blasts that struck the Norwegian-owned Front Altair and the Japanese-owned Kokuka Courageous in the Gulf of Oman, at the mouth of the Gulf. Iran said the video proved nothing and that it was being made into a scapegoat.


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.


Precision attack on Saudi oil facility seen as part of dangerous new pattern

The Japan Times

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES – The assault on the beating heart of Saudi Arabia's vast oil empire follows a new and dangerous pattern that's emerged across the Persian Gulf this summer of precise attacks that leave few obvious clues as to who launched them. Beginning in May with the still-unclaimed explosions that damaged oil tankers near the Strait of Hormuz, the region has seen its energy infrastructure repeatedly targeted. Those attacks culminated with Saturday's assault on the world's biggest oil processor in eastern Saudi Arabia, which halved the oil-rich kingdom's production and caused energy prices to spike. Some strikes have been claimed by Yemen's Houthi rebels, who have been battling a Saudi-led coalition in the Arab world's poorest country since 2015. Their rapidly increasing sophistication fuels suspicion among experts and analysts however that Iran may be orchestrating them -- or perhaps even carrying them out itself as the U.S. alleges in the case of Saturday's attack.


Iran says it seized British tanker in Strait of Hormuz and denies U.S. brought down drone

The Japan Times

WASHINGTON/DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - Iran said it had seized a British oil tanker in the Strait of Hormuz on Friday but denied Washington's assertion that the U.S. Navy had downed an Iranian drone nearby this week, as tensions in the Gulf region rose again. Britain said it was urgently seeking information about the Stena Impero tanker, which had been heading to a port in Saudi Arabia and suddenly changed course after passing through the strait at the mouth of the Gulf. The tanker's operator, Stena Bulk, said in a statement the ship was no longer under the crew's control and could not be contacted. Iran's state news agency IRNA quoted a military source as saying the vessel had turned off its tracker, ignored warnings from the Revolutionary Guard and was sailing in the wrong direction in a shipping lane. "We will respond in a way that is considered but robust and we are absolutely clear that if this situation is not resolved quickly there will be serious consequences," British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt told reporters.