The triangle of rivalry between the US, Saudi Arabia and Iran is finding new reasons to soar, time and again. The question is why and because of whom?
The inextricable alliance of the Kingdom and Trump administration stood against the Islamic Republic once again, when two ships were attacked in the Gulf of Oman weeks ago. Following the attacks, several incidents of strife have taken place.
On Thursday, Iranian forces had reportedly shot down an unmanned American Global Hawk surveillance drone. Where the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) suggested that the drone violated Iranian airspace, the US military stated that it was over international waters at the time. “Iran made a very big mistake,” President Donald Trump tweeted.
Washington has been accusing the Islamic Republic for causing and escalating tensions in the Gulf region. It is also being believed that the US and Iran might soon push the situation “to the brink of war”.
On June 13, two oil tankers became target to explosives at the Strait of Hormuz, a significant shipping and major transit route for oil. Reports revealed that one of them, the Norwegian-owned Front Altair was heading from Qatar to Taiwan. The Marshall Islands-flagged tanker was carrying 75,000 tons of naphtha, which is a flammable liquid hydrocarbon.
The other was Japanese-operated Kokuka Courageous, which was heading from a port in Saudi Arabia toward Singapore. The Panama-flagged ship was attacked, when the Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was in Iran trying to assist and ease the escalating tensions between Washington and Tehran.
The attacks revived tensions in the Gulf, as the Strait of Hormuz is a throttle point through which nearly one-fifth of the world’s oil consumption passes from the Middle Eastern producers. After the suspected attack, the oil prices jumped by 4 per cent.
President Trump was quick to blame its long-time rival Iran, describing it as a “nation of terror”. In a statement on Fox News Channel’s “Fox & Friends”, he said that Tehran “did do it” and that the Middle Eastern rival is “in deep, deep trouble”.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also stated that it is “unmistakable” that the Islamic Republic was responsible for the attacks on Japanese and Norwegian oil tankers. However, he also suggested that America doesn’t want war. “President Trump has done everything he can to avoid war. We don’t want war,” he said.
On June 14, the US Defense Department released black-and-white video footage, allegedly demonstrating that the explosions on the two oil tankers were conducted by Tehran. It purports that Iran used limpet mines to attack the oil ships. According to the officials, the footage describes an Iranian Revolutionary Guard vessel removing an unexploded mine from the Japanese-owned tanker through a large whole, just above the water line.
The revelation of the Trump administration was turned down by the Japanese tanker’s crewmembers, who contradicted that the attacks were not conducted with mines. They described that a flying projectile was used to struck the vessel.
Some of the US allies backed the claims of the Trump administration, and pointed their blame finger at Iran. Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MbS) called on the international community to take a “decisive stand”, as he held Iran responsible for the explosives. However, he said that the Kingdom doesn’t want a war in the region.
UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt also said that Britain was “almost certain” with the US’ claim. “The great risk of the situation we are in is both sides in this dispute think the other would not want a war,” he stated.
Iran, on the other hand, denied all the accusations from the rival countries, calling it an “unfounded claim” in the US’ “Iranophobic campaign”.
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said, “We are in charge of maintaining security of the Strait and we rescued the crew of those attacked tankers in the shortest possible time … US Secretary of State [Mike] Pompeo’s accusations towards Iran is alarming.”
Meanwhile, where Saudi and Britain backed US, some of the allies were reluctant to blame Iran, including Japan and Norway, the countries which owned the two oil tankers.
The attack came a month after four tankers — including two owned by Saudi Arabia — were subjected to “sabotage operations” off the coast of Fujairah, near the UAE territorial waters in the Gulf of Oman. The Trump administration had also accused Iran for the May 12 attack on oil tankers. However, the investigations have not been able to prove it yet. Besides, Tehran had also denied the allegations.
Trump has indicated of hitting Iran with some “major” new sanctions again, on Monday. Besides, he has highlighted that military action against it’s Middle Eastern rival is also “on the table”.
Where Trump administration and its allies — Saudi Arabia, the United Kingdom and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) — have been rushing to blame the Islamic Republic for several different incidents, the claims still remain unproven. Moreover, the bilateral conflict has been affecting several other countries, which have been rerouting their flights away from the Strait of Hormuz. While some nations are intervening to ease the tensions, the possibilities are not yet in sight.