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May 13, 2019

Oil Tankers Near Strait of Hormuz -- World's Most Important Oil-Shipping Chokepoint -- Damaged by "Sabotage Attacks;"
US Suspects Iran or Iran Proxies In Attacks

US intelligence has been warning of coming attacks by Iran:

The alleged attacks came one day after the U.S. Maritime Administration (MARAD) warned of "an increased possibility that Iran and/or its regional proxies could take action against U.S. and partner interests, including oil production infrastructure, after recently threatening to close the Strait of Hormuz."

Four days ago, a Vice Admiral stated that the US might send a carrier into the Strait, "if I need to:"

Vice Admiral Jim Malloy, commander of the U.S. Navy's Bahrain-based Fifth Fleet, did not say whether he would send the USS Abraham Lincoln carrier strike group into the strategic waterway off Iran, through which passes a fifth of oil consumed globally.

The group, whose deployment to the Middle East was fast-tracked by President Donald Trumpís administration as a warning to Iran, transited through the Suez Canal into the Red Sea on Thursday and was now under Malloy's command.

"If I need to bring it inside the strait, I will do so," Malloy said in an interview by phone. "I'm not restricted in any way, I'm not challenged in any way, to operate her anywhere in the Middle East."

Iran dismissed the threat, saying it would hit the US "in the head:"

Meanwhile, the head of the Guards' aerospace division said the carrier was not a threat, but a target for the Iranians.

"An aircraft carrier that has at least 40 to 50 planes on it and 6,000 forces gathered within it was a serious threat for us in the past but now it is a target and the threats have switched to opportunities," said Hajizadeh.

"If (the Americans) make a move, we will hit them in the head," he added, according to Reuters.

...

The sweeping sanctions have dealt a severe blow to the Iranian economy.

Steinitz's comments follow a report on Israelís Channel 13 on Friday that said Israel had warned the US that Iran was contemplating targeting Saudi oil production facilities.

The unsourced report said the Iranians were "considering various hostile acts" against American or American-allied targets. Tehran had looked at targeting American bases in the Gulf, but that had been deemed too drastic a step, it claimed.

The main target then became "Saudi oil production facilities," the report said. Such a strike would also send world oil prices soaring and enable Iran to get more income from its oil sales, the report added.

And now four oil tankers are attacked very near the Strait. (From Newsweek, the first source linked above.)

In official statements released Monday, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) were among the first to condemn "sabotage" operations committed a day earlier against up to four commercial ships--of which two are believed to be Saudi and one Norwegian--off the coast of the UAE's Fujairah in the Sea of Oman. The UAE also noted that there were no casualties nor oil spills and that its port had resumed operations as normal, while Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih revealed that one of the damaged vessels was on its way to bringing oil to the U.S., per a statement carried by the official Saudi Press Agency.

Neither offered any information as to who could be responsible for the incident, which took place less than 100 miles from the Strait of Hormuz, through which about a third of the world's maritime oil traffic flows.

The Wall Street Journals reports that US intelligence says Iran, or its activated proxy forces, is likely behind the attacks.

An initial U.S. assessment indicated Iran likely was behind the attack on two Saudi Arabian oil tankers and two other vessels damaged over the weekend near the Strait of Hormuz, a U.S. official said, a finding that, if confirmed, would further inflame military tensions in the Persian Gulf.


Reuters video report here.






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