Attack on Iranian oil tanker raises fresh concerns of conflict

The Sabiti that belongs to the National Iranian Tanker Company was attacked with missiles on Friday. It is the first instance of a tanker being attacked in the Red Sea

October 11, 2019 by Peoples Dispatch
Attack on Iranian oil tanker raises fresh concerns of conflict
The Sabiti was attacked with two missiles nearly 60 miles off the coast of Jeddah in Saudi Arabia.

An Iranian tanker carrying oil was attacked by missiles in the Red Sea on October 11, reviving the possibility of a full-scale confrontation in west Asia According to the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA), the tanker was hit by two missiles about 100 kilometers (60 miles) off the Saudi port of Jeddah.

The vessel belongs to the National Iranian Tanker Company (NITC). The company has identified the vessel as the Sabiti. All the crew members are safe and the tanker is stable as per a statement issued by NITC.

The attack caused heavy damage to the vessel, leading to leakage of the oil. Earlier, it was reported that the tanker had caught fire. However, NITC has denied such reports and said the tanker was stable. As per an Al-Jazeera report, the tanker is carrying around one million barrels of oil.

According to another Al-Jazeera report, the news of the attack caused panic in the international oil markets, leading to a 2% jump in the prices. Last month’s attack on the Saudi Aramco facilities by the Houthis had caused a similar fear, leading to a jump in oil prices.

This is the first major incident involving tankers in the Red Sea. In June and July, there were a series of attacks on tankers belonging to various countries around the world in the Persian Gulf region. The US, along with its allies Saudi Arabia and the UAE, blamed Iran for these attacks. Iran denied any involvement. According to Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif, such allegations were to justify aggression against Iran.

In July, the UK captured an Iranian oil tanker Grace 1 allegedly for violating European Union sanctions on Syria near the coast of Gibraltar. However, Iranians alleged that the UK was acting on behalf of the US. Iran retaliated by capturing a British tanker named Steno Impero. The Iranian tanker was finally released in mid-August despite last-minute attempts made by the US to prolong the detention.

The so-called “tanker war” has been seen as a front against Iran. Iran is facing stiff economic sanctions imposed by the US. The US imposed sanctions after its unilateral withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action or nuclear deal last year. The deal was signed by the Obama administration in 2015 with Iran and five other countries, leading to Iran halting its nuclear program in return for lifting of decades-long international sanctions. Trump had alleged that the deal was too soft on Iran.

Sensing the possibility of a military confrontation, Iran has threatened to stop any oil trade from the Persian Gulf region in case of an attack. The US has used this so-called Iranian threat and successive mysterious attacks on oil tankers in the region to rally its allies to create a regional maritime security initiative excluding Iran. Iran sees these moves as hostile acts by the US. It has warned countries in the region to not join any such initiative and instead proposed an alternative regional security arrangement in the UN General Assembly meeting last month.

According to Fars News Agency, following today’s attack, Iran’s foreign ministry’s spokesperson said, “Those behind this dangerous adventurism are responsible for the consequences of such acts.” According to spokesperson Seyyed Abbas Mousavi, this was not the first attack on Iranian vessels in the Red Sea. He announced that an investigation is going on to find out the culprits behind these attacks.