UAE: Not enough evidence to blame Gulf tanker attacks on Iran

‘If other countries have clear information, I am sure the international community will easily listen to them,’ says Emirati foreign minister on Wednesday

The United Arab Emirates Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed Al-Nahyan said on Wednesday that no country could be held responsible for the latest attacks on oil tankers in the Gulf.

Speaking during a press conference with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov in Moscow, Al-Nahyan said his country needs “clear and convincing evidence” regarding the recent attacks that targeted four vessels off the UAE coast last month, including two Saudi oil tankers.

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Source: middleeasteye.net

Pompeo’s Hollow Plan to Beef Up Security in the Gulf

BY LARA SELIGMAN

Experts are skeptical that U.S. allies will get on board.

In the wake of alleged aggression from Iran in the Persian Gulf, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo rolled out a new plan this week, dubbed “Sentinel,” to recruit U.S. partners to help enhance security for ships traversing the Strait of Hormuz and other choke points.

But experts are skeptical that the United States can get allies in the Gulf, Europe, or Asia to shore up the resources needed to make a significant difference to the commercial vessels facing threats from Tehran in the world’s busiest shipping lanes.

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Source: foreignpolicy.com

U.S. Launches Maritime Security Initiative for Strait of Hormuz

The United States is launching a new maritime security initiative for the Persian Gulf region to counter the threat of Iranian attacks on shipping, a State Department official told reporters Monday. During previous regional conflicts, the U.S. Navy has periodically provided escorts for merchant shipping through the Strait of Hormuz, but this effort would be multilateral, according to the official. 

The new program, called Sentinel, would be implemented with both material assets and monetary contributions from participating nations. The participants have not yet been named, but the official said that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo would seek the support of Saudi Arabia on Monday during a visit to Jeddah. 

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Source: maritime-executive.com

Gulf of Oman oil tanker attacks fuel maritime security demand

Maritime security firms have seen demand soar following the attacks on oil tankers on June 13. But defending ships from allegedly involved state-backed forces such as Iran’s Revolutionary Guard may not be easy.

Author Ashutosh Pandey

The demand for private maritime security personnel has shot up since the attacks on oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman on June 13, as shippers step up efforts to protect their ships and keep global trade going.

The US has blamed Iran for the attacks, which took place near the Strait of Hormuz, which is used to transport a third of the world’s seaborne crude. Iran has denied the accusations.

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Source: dw.com

India launches Operation Sankalp to reassure Indian vessels

The development has come in the wake of the attack on oil tankers raising tensions between US and Iran

WRITTEN BY Sidhant Sibal

In a major development the Indian Navy has launched Operation Sankalp in the Persian Gulf/Gulf of Oman as a measure to re-assure Indian flagged vessels transiting through the region. The development has come in the wake of the attack on oil tankers raising tensions between US and Iran.

While Tehran denies involvement, Washington says that the West Asian country was behind it. Pentagon has released footage of Iran’s special forces removing unexploded mine.

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Source: dnaindia.com

Trump creates doubt over use of U.S. force to protect Gulf oil

Babak DehghanpishehSylvia Westall

GENEVA/DUBAI (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump said he was prepared to take military action to stop Tehran from getting a nuclear bomb but left open whether he would back the use of force to protect Gulf oil supplies that Washington fears may be under threat by Iran.

Worries about a confrontation between Iran and the United States have mounted since attacks last week on two oil tankers near the strategic Strait of Hormuz shipping lane at the entrance to the Gulf. Washington blamed long-time foe Iran for the incidents.

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Source: reuters.com

Gulf crisis: US sends more troops amid tanker tension with Iran

The US military will send an additional 1,000 troops to the Middle East as tensions build with Iran.

Acting Defence Secretary Patrick Shanahan said the deployment was in response to what he described as “hostile behaviour” by Iranian forces.

The US Navy also shared new images it says link Iran to attacks last week on two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman.

Washington has accused Iran of blowing holes in the vessels with mines. Iran has denied the allegations.

Tensions were further fuelled on Monday when Iran said its stockpile of low-enriched uranium would next week exceed levels set under the 2015 nuclear agreement.

It recently stepped up production in response to the US tightening sanctions. The 2015 deal, from which the US has withdrawn, curbed Iran’s nuclear programme in exchange for the lifting of sanctions.

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani said his country did not seek to wage war with any nation and had remained “loyal” to its international obligations.

Meanwhile, on Monday night three rockets hit a military base housing US troops north of Baghdad, the Iraqi military said. The US said it was “indirect fire” and did not cause injuries.

No group has admitted responsibility for the attack, though it follows warnings by US officials of an increased threat to US interests in Iraq by Iran-backed militias.

What do we know about the extra troops?

The US troop deployment to the Middle East was announced by Mr Shanahan late on Monday.

In his statement, he said the “United States does not seek conflict with Iran” but the action was taken to “ensure the safety and welfare of our military personnel working throughout the region to protect our national interests”.

He said the military would continue to monitor the situation and make adjustments to troop levels accordingly.

Monday’s troop increase announcement comes on top of 1,500 extra announced by President Donald Trump last month.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Sunday that the US did not want war with Iran, but was nevertheless “considering a full range of options”.

What do the latest images show?

Shortly before the announcement, the Pentagon released new images including some purporting to show the remnants of an unexploded mine on a Japanese-owned oil tanker.

The photos appear to show it being removed by members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps. The Pentagon has already released grainy video said to show the same episode.

Also seen in the latest images is apparent damage – a hole – above the waterline on the hull of the Kokuka Courageous vessel.

Another image claims to show the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps vessel shortly after it was involved in removing the limpet mine.

A Norwegian-owned tanker, the Front Altair, also reported being hit by the blasts on Thursday.

The US has implicated Iran in the latest attacks and four others outside the Strait of Hormuz in May, allegations denied by Iran.

How do other sides see the situation?

China urged the US to lower the pressure and for Iran to stick to the nuclear deal, warning of a “Pandora’s box” in the region.

Russia – another party to the nuclear accord – also called for restraint, calling US actions “truly provocative”.

Saudi Arabia also blames Iran for the attacks on the two oil tankers, while the UK said it was “almost certain” Iran was responsible.

But EU foreign ministers meeting on Monday warned against jumping to conclusions and backed UN calls for an independent investigation.

Why are there new tensions?

In 2015, Iran agreed to a landmark deal with world powers to curb its nuclear development.

It agreed to limit the enrichment of uranium, which is used to make reactor fuel but also nuclear weapons, and other measures in return for relief from sanctions.

Mr Trump abandoned the nuclear accord last year and started to re-impose sanctions.

The move has crippled Iran’s economy, which relies on oil, and Iran has responded by scaling back its nuclear commitments.

On Monday, a spokesman for Iran’s Atomic Energy Organisation said it was on course to exceed agreed limits on its low-enriched uranium stockpiles by 27 June.

But, Iran said there was “still time” for European countries to act by protecting Iran from reinstated US sanctions.

Source: bbc.co.uk

US Department of Defense images