Rising Tension in the Persian Gulf Between UAE and Iran

(Damascus) After a series of denials and confusing reports from the UAE regarding the fire that broke out on four commercials ships, including two Saudi vessels, spreading to six other ships off the coast of Fujairah two days ago. WAM, the official UAE news agency, confirmed the incidents which still remain shrouded in mystery. Was it a mere accident? Or a deliberate act of sabotage? Or a message from Iran in response to escalating tension in the Persian Gulf, and a build up of US military presence in order to force Iran back to the negotiating table regarding its nuclear programme?

This embarrassing situation for the USA’s main allies in the region was mirrored by the contradictory and confusing news on a very major accident in the town of Fujairah on the Gulf of Oman in the UAE which started circulating on the afternoon of May 12. What is now confirmed is that there were several explosions in the Fujairah port area, and as a result, at least seven tankers were set on fire.

Iran was quick to refute initial statements regarding the accident, issued by UAE officials and the media, at first denying the whole story and claiming it was based on rumours and “fake news”, insisting that nothing had happened, and that the port was working without having had any accidents of any kind, let alone a series of explosions and fires. Later on, however, the UAE admitted that there had in fact been accidents, describing them as “acts of sabotage.”

Following the initial UAE denial, Iranian PRESS TV provided even greater evidence to the contrary, by identifying the tankers hit by explosions. One of its reports stated: “Despite the UAE government’s denial, witnesses have emphasized that the blasts have taken place and some media sources have gone even further, identifying the specific oil tankers hit by the explosions by their hull numbers as follows:

Crude oil tanker AMJAD, IMO 9779800, dwt 300000, built 2017, flag Saudi Arabia.
Crude oil tanker AL MARZOQAH, IMO 9165762, dwt 105084, built 1999, flag Saudi Arabia.
Product tanker MIRAJ, IMO 9394741, dwt 7414, built 2007, flag Dominica.
Product tanker A MICHEL, IMO 9177674, dwt 6711, built 2007, flag UAE..
Product tanker FNSA 10, IMO 9432074, dwt 6453, built 2007, flag UAE.

Among the damaged tankers was one VLCC, one Aframax and three smaller tankers, most likely bunkering tankers. What happened exactly, how bad were the explosions and fire, if there was any, and what definition can be applied to this claimed “act of sabotage” is still anyone’s guess. Both the incident and emerging information raise more questions than they give answers.

Some analysts have gone as far as to suggest that what happened near the port city of Al Fujairah might spark military action against Iran, by the USA and its allies in the Gulf, particularly Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, where the US Fifth Fleet is based.

Such interpretations and viewpoints base much of their analysis on the growing US military buildup in recent weeks, including more aircraft carriers and a squadron of the latest version of strategic B-52 bombers that have been dispatched to Al Aideed, now recognised as the largest US base outside America. This discourse is supported by the heated exchanges between Washington and Tehran, as well as by the tightening US-led blockade and threatening to prevent of Iranian oil from being exported.

The main importers of Iranian oil are China, India and Turkey, who have so far refused to comply with American sanctions. The deadline for lifting US exemptions regarding Iranian oil, gas and petrochemical exports few days ago, with no further progress having been made. Tehran responded to the American threat with a threat of its own; “If we are not allowed to export our oil, no one else will be able to do so. No country shall replace and take our share in the oil markets, at any cost, even if that means shutting down the Straits of Hormuz completely”, Iranian officials have reiterated on various occasions.

Further reciprocated measures, some of which daring and precarious soon followed. As the US issued a presidential decree declaring the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, a core component of the far-reaching arm and of Iran’s military forces a “terrorist organisation”, Iran immediately responded by declaring US forces in the region as “terrorists”, and US regional bases as potential targets. Tehran went on to announce it was pulling out from some of its obligations regarding its nuclear deal with the West.

Despite the CIA’s advice and warnings to the Trump administration of the uncontrollable results and dangers of any military confrontation with Iran, there are members of the administration close to Trump who have been pushing him towards the abyss of such a potentially catastrophic confrontation. Any minor incident, including that of the oil tankers off the UAE coast, could be used as a pretext to attack Tehran. The experiences of Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Libya clearly demonstrate the regrettable, yet true fact, that it isn’t difficult to destroy a nations and kill millions of civilians in wars based upon a “bunch of lies”.