Published: Sat, June 15, 2019
Global News | By Blake Casey

Tankers struck near Strait of Hormuz amid Iran-US tensions

Tankers struck near Strait of Hormuz amid Iran-US tensions

Benchmark Brent crude spiked at one point by as much 4% in trading following the reported attack, to over $62 a barrel, highlighting how crucial the area remains to global energy supplies.

The New York Times reports that Iran has also threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz, a move that would greatly disrupt oil transport.

A handout photo made available by the Norwegian shipowner Frontline of the crude oil tanker Front Altair after the fire onboard the ship in the Gulf of Oman, June 13, 2019.

If confirmed, it would match the method of attack the United States believes was used last month when four other tankers were struck off the coast of the United Arab Emirates .

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif described the tanker explosions as "suspicious" on Twitter and called for regional dialogue.

Russia, one of Iran's main allies, was quick to urge caution, saying no one should rush to conclusions about the incident or use it to put pressure on Tehran.

"You should know that if we planned to produce nuclear weapons, America could not do anything", said Khamenei, who has final say on all matters of state in Iran's Shiite theocracy. Between 1981 and 1988, a total of 451 ships suffered some sort of attack in the region from Iraqi or Iranian forces, according to a report from the U.S. Naval Institute. Iran denied that allegation, but it is embroiled in several conflicts in the region.

The Bahrain-based U.S. Navy Fifth Fleet said it had assisted the two tankers after receiving distress calls.

Pompeo said US policy remained making economic and diplomatic efforts to bring Iran back to negotiations on a broader deal.

The Security Council discussed the attacks behind closed doors on Thursday at the request of the United States.

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On May 30, Saudi Arabia - which accuses Iran of being behind the acts of sabotage and the drone attack in May - gets the backing of Arab leaders in its standoff with Tehran at summits organised by Riyadh.

The second vessel was identified as the Kokuka Courageous. The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the sensitive matter, said the USA will reevaluate its presence in the region and is considering a plan to provide military escorts for merchant ships. "We need deescalation and all sides must contribute to that", said Maas, who recently returned from a trip to Iran. Staff on the Kokuka Courageous were evacuated to US Navy ship the Bainbridge.

The crew of the Norwegian-owned Front Altair abandoned ship in waters between Gulf Arab states and Iran after a blast that a source said might have been from a magnetic mine.

The Front Altair had been bound for Taiwan, the Kokuka Courageous for Singapore, according to the to the data firm Refinitiv.

The fact that both vessels remained afloat suggested mines may have damaged them, said Jakob P. Larsen, head of maritime security for BIMCO, the largest worldwide association representing ship owners.

Tensions between Iran and the United States, along with its allies including Saudi Arabia, have risen since Washington pulled out of a deal past year between Iran and global powers that aimed to curb Tehran's nuclear ambitions.

Meanwhile, in Tokyo, Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, a top government spokesman, told reporters that Abe's trip was meant to help de-escalate Mideast tensions - not specifically mediate between Tehran and Washington.

The incidents came as Abe's high-stakes diplomatic mission was underway in Iran.

The incidents come a day after Iran-backed rebels in Yemen fired a missile at a Saudi airport, wounding 26 people.

Khamenei's official website quoted him as telling Abe: "I don't regard Trump as deserving any exchange of messages and have no response for him and will give no response".

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