By Jon Dougherty
Tensions in the Persian Gulf heated up on Monday as two Saudi oil tankers — one bound for the United States — suffered what has been described as a “sabotage attack” off the coast of the United Arab Emirates, while a top Iranian commander has labeled U.S. military forces in the region “a target.”
First, the tankers, as reported byÂ The Sun:
The ships were struck off the coast of the port of Fujairah – with one of the tankers due to be loaded with Saudi crude oil bound for the United States.
Saudi energy minister Khalid Al-Falih revealed the tankers suffered “significant damage” – although it was unclear what the attack involved.
He said: “Fortunately, the attack didn’t lead to any casualties or oil spill; however, it caused significant damage to the structures of the two vessels.”
Trading and shipping sources identified the Saudi ships as Bahri-owned very large crude carrier (VLCC) tanker Amjad and crude tanker Al Marzoqah.
Meanwhile,Â Reuters reported that a senior Iranian Revolutionary Guards commander said that, according to the Iranian Students’ News Agency (ISNA), U.S. military forces in the region had gone from merely a threat to a target.
“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 Amirali Hajizadeh, head of the Guards’ aerospace division.
“If (the Americans) make a move, we will hit them in the head,” he added, according to ISNA.
The U.S. Navy says “Abe,” as the carrier is nicknamed, comes with a complement of 90 fixed wing and helicopters.
His warning comes amid a rising American military presence in the Gulf region. Last week the Pentagon ordered theÂ USS Abraham Lincoln carrier battle group out of the Mediterranean Sea and into the Gulf, along with B-52 bombers and Patriot missile batteries.
Meanwhile, as weÂ reported:
Earlier, Iran announced that, in response to the new U.S. sanctions, it would abandon key portions of the so-called â€œnuclear agreementâ€ which, as weÂ reportedFriday, was actually set up by the Obama regime and former Secretary of State John Kerry to provide a continuous revenue stream to the country.
The Trump administration ordered additional U.S. military assets to the Gulf region following “clear indications” of threats from Iran to American forces in the region.
“We’ve seen this reporting,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told CNBC on Monday, according toÂ Reuters. “It’s real. It appears to be something that is current, that is things we’re worried about today.
“In the event that Iran decided to come after an American interest – whether that be in Iraq or Afghanistan or Yemen or any place in the Middle East – we are prepared to respond in an appropriate way,” Pompeo said, adding that “our aim is not war.”
Rear Admiral Hossein Khanzadi said on Sunday that American forces must leave the area, according to ISNA. “The presence of the Americans in the Persian Gulf region has reached its end and they must leave the region,” Khanzadi said.
For his part, POTUS Donald Trump said last week he hoped to bring the Iranians to the negotiating table.
â€œWhat I would like to see with Iran, I would like to see them call me,â€ Trump told reporters at the White House. â€œWe donâ€™t want them to have nuclear weapons â€” not much to ask,â€ he added.
ButÂ The SunÂ reported that, according to senior Revolutionary Guards commanders, Iran isn’t ready to talk.
The Sun also noted that the U.S. Maritime Administration warned shippers to exercise caution when sailing near Fujairah moments before the Saudi tankers were attacked.
It’s not yet known if Iran was behind the tanker attacks, but the Saudis and Iranians have been fighting a proxy war in neighboring Yemen for the past couple of years.
The Saudis consider Iran such a threat to stability in the region that they have considered launching a nuclear weapons program of their own and have reportedly begun working with Israel to improve intelligence gathering.
As for Iran’s intentions, we noted last week:
Cutting off Iranian oil shipments and ending the Obama-Kerry revenue stream is going to make Iran pretty desperate, and desperate nations tend to react in one of two ways: They talk, or they fight.
- Follow Jon Dougherty on Twitter at @JonDougherty10