Iran Claims Missiles Attacked One of Its Oil Tankers

Iran said that two missiles struck one of its oil tankers traveling through the Red Sea off the coast of Saudi Arabia. The attack was not immediately corroborated, but crude oil prices still soared.

Tehran has said that if they can't ship their oil due to U.S. sanctions, nobody will. They have seized tankers from other nations on trumped-up charges.

But whether the missiles were fired from Saudi Arabia is uncertain. Given the attack on Saudi oil facilities last month by Iran-backed Houthi rebels that cut the Kingdom's oil production in half, it's entirely possible Riyadh has retaliated.

Associated Press:

“This latest incident, if confirmed to be an act of aggression, is highly likely to be part of the wider narrative of deteriorating relations between Saudi and the U.S. and Iran,” private maritime security firm Dryad Maritime warned.

“It is likely that the region ... will face another period of increasing maritime threats, as the Iranian and Saudi geopolitical stand-off continues,” it added.

The attack reportedly took place around 5 a.m. and damaged two storerooms aboard the oil tanker Sabiti, state media reported. It also briefly caused an oil leak into the Red Sea near the Saudi port city of Jiddah that later was stopped, state-run IRNA news agency reported.

Iran has been looking to evade U.S. sanctions for months, trying to make it difficult to track their tankers.

The Sabiti turned on its tracking devices late Friday morning in the Red Sea, putting its location some 130 kilometers (80 miles) southwest of Jiddah, according to data from MarineTraffic.com. The ship is carrying some 1 million barrels of crude oil, according to an analysis from data firm Refinitiv.

The Sabiti last turned on its tracking devices in August near the Iranian port city of Bandar Abbas. Iranian tankers routinely turn off their trackers as U.S. sanctions target the sale of Iran’s crude oil.

But without corroboration, how certain are we that this was a genuine attack and not a false-flag operation?

Images released by Iran’s Petroleum Ministry appeared to show no damage to the Sabiti visible from its bridge, though they did not show the ship’s sides. Satellite images of the area showed no visible smoke.

The ministry’s SHANA news agency said no ship nor any authority in the area responded to its distress messages.

They must have been really, really, really small missiles.

It is a characteristic of writing about anything in the Middle East that few things are ever as they appear to be. Iran may have indeed suffered an attack on one of its tankers, or it may have staged the whole thing. The only thing that's certain is that tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran have been ratcheted up a notch and the two regional powers, which are currently fighting a proxy war in Yemen, may yet plunge the entire region into war.