Probe says ‘state actor’ likely behind attack on tankers off UAE, doesn’t mention Iran – report
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After the US put the blame squarely on Iran for sabotaging four oil tankers off the coast of the United Arab Emirates, a preliminary probe concluded that a ‘state actor’ was likely behind the raid, but made no mention of Iran.
According to reports by Reuters and Bloomberg, preliminary findings from the investigation jointly conducted by the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Norway and presented at an informal UN briefing on Thursday, describe the attack as a complex effort that required significant resources.
The investigators argue that the attackers, who inflicted damage on the tankers, but did not cause casualties or an oil spill, required “high degree sophistication”, precise intelligence and “expert navigation of fast boats” to pick the targets, get in and get out undetected. All of this, they claim, are signs a ‘state actor’ was likely responsible.
This wording allows the countries behind the report, two of which are among the US’ main allies and arms sales clients in the Middle East, to maintain a neutral image without actually contradicting Washington, which accused Iran out of hand.
US President Donald Trump’s National Security Adviser John Bolton said last month that the attacks were “almost certainly” perpetrated by Iran, accusing it of planting “naval mines” under the ships. It’s unclear if Bolton’s assertion relied on any intelligence.
The UAE emirate of Fujairah, off the cost of which the attack took place, lies outside the Strait of Hormuz, a narrow waterway that separates the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman. The strait is immensely important for oil transportation, with tankers carrying crude from the oil-rich Gulf countries must pass through it.
Previously, Iran threatened to block the oil shipments through the waterway in response to the US’ intent to bring Tehran’s oil exports to ‘zero.’
In a series of sharply escalating moves, the US recently declared Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards a terrorist organization, then sent an aircraft carrier group to the Gulf, while signaling a possible massive boost to the number of American troops in the region.
The May 12 attack came at the height of the latest round of tension and targeted four commercial tankers, including two Saudi, one Emirati and one Norwegian ship. Iran has dismissed the accusations against it, calling the Bolton’s statement “ridiculous.”
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