UAE says oil tanker attack during US-Iran sanctions likely the work of a ‘state actor’

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The United Arab Emirates told United Nations Security Council members that attacks on four tankers off its coast on May 12 bore the hallmarks of a “sophisticated and coordinated operation”, most likely by a state actor.

Key points:

  • Four Saudi oil tankers were attacked off the coast of the United Arab Emirates on May 12
  • The attack was seen as an attempt to undermine the security of global crude supplies
  • UAE, Norway and Saudi Arabia believe the attackers placed limpet mines on the vessels

The attack off the coast of the UAE, took place amid heightened tensions between the United States and Iran and was seen as an attempt to undermine the security of global crude supplies, according to Saudi Arabia.

In a document on the briefing to Security Council members, the UAE, joined by Norway and Saudi Arabia, did not say who it believed was behind the attacks and did not mention Iran, which has been accused by the United States of being directly responsible.

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The three countries said the attacks required expert navigation of fast boats and trained divers who likely placed limpet mines with a high degree of precision on the vessels under the waterline.

“While investigations are still ongoing, these facts are strong indications that the four attacks were part of a sophisticated and coordinated operation carried out by an actor with significant operational capacity, most likely a state actor,” the three countries said in the document.

A damaged ship is seen off the Port of Fujairah, United Arab Emirates.

US national security adviser John Bolton said on May 29 that the attacks were the work of “naval mines almost certainly from Iran”.

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Iran has been embroiled in an escalating war of words with the United States over sanctions and the US military’s presence in the region.

Iran denied the accusations.

A few days earlier in May, US Rear Admiral Michael Gilday accused Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps of being directly responsible for the attacks.

The May 12 attacks targeted two Saudi tankers, an Emirati vessel and a Norwegian tanker, causing no casualties.

They occurred off the UAE emirate of Fujairah, which lies just outside the Strait of Hormuz, a vital global oil and gas shipping route.

The strait separates the Gulf Arab states and Iran, which has been embroiled in an escalating war of words with the United States over US sanctions and the US military’s regional presence.

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