Abe in Tehran and the Attack in the Strait of Hormuz

Last night, while Shinzo Abe was in Iran to meet the Ayatollah Khamenei on a difficult peace mission, two tankers were attacked in the Gulf of Oman, south of the Strait of Hormuz. One appears to have been sunk.

The peace mission Abe was engaged in sank with it. This at least is the symbolic significance that the perpetrators of the attack intended to give the crime.

The sabotage at Fujairah 

The attack followed the one which took place a month ago, when four ships – two merchant ships and two oil tankers – were attacked off the United Arab Emirates, this time north of the Strait of Hormuz. In that case the ships were not sunk. Subsequent investigations showed that the attacks were meant to damage them, but not extensively.

An attack carried out by a “state actor,”,the investigators concluded, given that it was “very sophisticated.” Frogmen had hooked mines to the ships, placing them above the waterline to keep them from sinking. Empty ships were hit to avoid any further damage. It also implied a high level of military intelligence because it denoted that the terrorists, as revealed by the investigation, had detailed information about the ships in question.

To identify and attack four empty ships on different routes and, what’s more, using frogmen who have to be transported to the location, is a very challenging exercise.

Accusations against Iran

John Bolton, United States National Security Advisor, immediately blamed Iran, while Israeli intelligence boasted it had provided crucial information. But official investigations have not identified the country responsible.

Today’s attack, on the other hand, appears less sophisticated and more brutal. And perhaps improvised. No victims were recorded only because of the Iranian navy’s emergency response, which saved the two crews, 44 men in all.

Il is likely someone will try to blame Tehran once again, though they will have to explain why it rescued the crew members.

But leaving aside the posthumous narratives, still needing to be read and interpreted, the crime, as written, aims to close the window of opportunity opened by Abe’s mission. Despite being confronted with the Iranian authorities’ refusal to engage in dialogue with Washington – “Trump does not deserve answers,” said Ayatollah Khamenei – Abe did receive important reassurances on the development of Iran’s nuclear power, the main source of international tension.

Khamenei reiterated that Iran does not want atomic weapons, nor will it ever use them (Reuters).

Intimidation aimed at Abe

It is interesting to note that both ships attacked were bound for Asia: one was making for South Korea and the other Singapore. What’s more,  Hiroshige Seko, Japan’s Economy, Trade and Industry Minister, said that part of the cargo was intended for Tokyo (Japan News).

So the attack was also meant to intimidate Abe and Japan, guilty of lending themselves to a peace-keeping mission. An ugly business. It seems unlikely to unleash war just yet, but there will certainly be no lack of charges against Iran and it looks certain to rack up tension. Clearly the attack is increasing the risk in the Strait of Hormuz, through which a large part of the world’s oil passes.

This will boost oil prices with the risk they will remain high for some time and with further hikes ahead. It remains to be seen if it will also trigger an energy crisis, which would bring the chance of conflict even closer. The war mongers have defied the world. It seems a desperate move, given the risks and the blatantly contrived ploy.

If the narrative of the Tonkin incident, which triggered US military intervention in Vietnam, had some Hollywood dignity, today’s material seems fit for a B-movie script.

Yet apparently, some people are in a hurry to set fire to the powder keg, without worrying that the conflagration is certain to spread around the world. We shall see. To date there has been some caution about the incident. There are many of us who don’t want this war.