State actor behind UAE oil tanker attacks, reveals internal investigation

Updated: Jun 15, 2019, 10:08 IST | mid-day online desk

Bolton, long known for his hawkish stance on Iran, has denied the Trump administration was seeking to overthrow the Iranian government

State actor behind UAE oil tanker attacks, reveals internal investigation
File photo of Al-Marzoqah, one of the tankers damaged in the attack in the Gulf. Pic/AFP

United Nations: A "state actor" was most likely behind the attacks on four oil tankers off the Emirati coast which and bore the hallmarks of a "sophisticated and coordinated operation", an international investigation has informed the UN Security Council. Of the four commercial ships targeted in the May 12 attack, one was flying a UAE flag, two were tankers owned by Saudi Arabia, and the fourth was a Norwegian tanker.

There were no casualties but Saudi Arabia has said two of its ships suffered "significant" damage. The US has accused Iran of being behind the attacks on the oil tankers, which came amidst escalating tensions between Tehran and Washington. The US has sent warships and bombers to the region as part of its response. "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," said a statement from the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Norway, which jointly probed the attack. Iran, the country suspected by both the US and Saudi Arabia of being behind the attacks, was not named as responsible by the investigation.

The UAE ambassador, Lana Nusseibeh, told reporters she did not accuse Iran of responsibility in an informal Security Council meeting about the investigation. Iran has denounced the attack and denied involvement in the incident. Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the United Nations, Abdallah al-Mouallimi, was clear that Riyadh believes "responsibility lies on the shoulders of Iran." He said there was "enough evidence" to demonstrate Iranian responsibility, adding that "if we tolerate a symbolic attack like this ... it opens the door for more." US National Security Adviser John Bolton has said that Iran was "almost certainly" behind the attacks. The US is conducting its own investigation. The briefings provided to the Security Council and later to reporters were mostly technical, CNN reported. Diplomats said the assessment of the damage to the four vessels and chemical analysis of the debris recovered revealed "it was highly likely that limpet mines' were deployed."

In a statement describing the conclusions, the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Norway said the attacks required trained divers, explosive charges placed under the waterline, near the engines, so as to not sink the ships or detonate their cargoes, which indicated a knowledge of the design of the targeted ships. The three countries say rapid withdrawal of the plotters by fast boats indicated understanding of the geographic area.

Bolton, long known for his hawkish stance on Iran, has denied the Trump administration was seeking to overthrow the Iranian government. Last May, the Trump administration ended the exemptions from sanctions for countries like India and China still buying oil from Iran. The decision was aimed to bring Iran's oil exports to zero, denying the government its main source of revenue. US President Donald Trump reinstated the crippling sanctions on Iran a year ago after abandoning the landmark 2015 nuclear deal that Tehran agreed with six nations - the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany.

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