Published: Wed, May 15, 2019
Worldwide | By Lisa Hogan

Military officer says no rise in Iran threat in Iraq, Syria

Military officer says no rise in Iran threat in Iraq, Syria

On Monday, Saudi Arabia - Iran's major rival in the region - said two of its oil tankers were sabotaged off the coast of the United Arab Emirates in attacks that caused "significant damage" to the vessels, media reports from the region said.

"A USA official in Washington, without offering any evidence, said that an American military team's initial assessment indicated Iran or Iranian allies used explosives to blow holes in the ships, including two Saudi, one Norwegian and one Emirati oil tanker", the news agency reported.

The incident comes after months of increasing diplomatic and economic pressure on Iran, which the US accuses of threatening American interests and allies in the region, including Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

"Absolutely. But we have not planned for that".

The plans, presented by Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan, are meant to be implemented in the event Iran attacks USA forces or speeds up nuclear weapons development.

The US ambassador to Saudi Arabia said Washington should take what he called "reasonable responses short of war" after it had determined who was behind the attacks near Fujairah.

An unnamed USA official familiar with American intelligence told Reuters news agency that Iran was a prime suspect in Sunday's sabotage off the UAE coast, although Washington had no conclusive proof.

It is not known who carried out the attack, but no one was killed in the incident. It said there were no injuries or deaths.

The United States said on Monday night it is assisting Emirati authorities on the investigation into the attack.

He emphasized the joint responsibility of the worldwide community to protect the safety of maritime navigation and the security of oil tankers, as these incidents pose a danger to energy markets and the global economy.

Iran distanced itself from Sunday's incident, saying it is "worrisome and terrible", and has called for an investigation. Mousavi also warned against any "conspiracy orchestrated by ill-wishers" and "adventurism by foreigners" to undermine the maritime region's stability and security.

Iran borders the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz.

Oil prices nevertheless jumped on Tuesday morning after news of the drone attack coming soon after the weekend's oil tanker sabotage.

Iran wants India to now focus on expediting the infrastructure work that New Delhi is involved in, like the flagship Chabahar port project.

Two other vessels were allegedly also damaged off Fujairah port in UAE waters.

Earlier on Sunday, Lebanon's pro-Iran satellite channel Al-Mayadeen, quoting "Gulf sources", reported that a series of explosions had struck Fujairah's port.

The assessment, while not conclusive, was the first suggestion by any nation that Iran was responsible and comes after a series of United States warnings against aggression by Tehran or its allies and proxies against military or commercial vessels in the region, reports Efe news.

Iranian military officials have upped their rhetoric in response. Last month, Iran threatened to "close" it if it was prevented from using the waterway.

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