Saudi Arabia blames Iran for gulf tanker attacks

Saudi Arabia joins the US, UK in blaming Iran for oil tanker attacks

saudi-royal-crown-prince--saudi-arabia-mohammed--bin-salman-Al-Saud-afp File photo of Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman | AFP

Stating that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia "did not want war in the region," Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman told the regional newspaper Asharq al-Awsat that Iran had attacked two oil tankers in Gulf of Oman in response to the Japanese prime minister's visit to Tehran.

"The Iranian regime did not respect the Japanese prime minister's visit to Tehran and while he was there replied to his efforts by attacking two tankers, one of which was Japanese," Prince Salman said in his interview with the paper.

The crown prince was referring to an incident that took place on June 13 off the Gulf of Oman, where two oil-tankers — the M/T (Motor Tanker) Altair and the MT Kokuka Courageous — were ablaze on Thursday morning in an alleged sabotage attack.

Crew members of the Altair were rescued by Iran while a US Navy ship, the USS Bainbridge, took in the crew of the MT Kokuka. A US Navy statement later claimed that Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) ships had been spotted near the oil tankers before and after the attacks, supplying video footage showing a patrol boat allegedly removing a limpet mine from the side of the burning vessel.

"U.S. Naval Forces in the region received two separate distress calls at 6:12am local time from the motor tanker (M/T) Altair and a second one at 7am local time from the M/T Kokuka Courageous... At 8:09am local time a U.S. aircraft observed an IRGC Hendijan class patrol boat and multiple IRGC fast attack craft/fast inshore attack craft (FAC/FIAC) in the vicinity of the M/T Altair."

The incident sparked international uproar, with nations like the US and UK promptly blaming Iran for the attack, while France and Germany called for restraint. The Japanese owner of the MT Kokuka, Yutaka Katada, issued a contradictory report of the attack, saying his crew saw a "flying object" hit the side of the ship rather than a mine. He suggested that a "penetrating bullet" may have been responsible.

US President Donald Trump said the incident "had Iran written all over it," calling for further talks with the nation and threatening "tough sanctions" on top of the ones already in place.

Adding that he favoured the re-imposition of US sanctions on Iran, crown prince Salman urged the international community to adopt a firm stance on Iran.

"The kingdom does not want a war in the region but it will not hesitate to deal with any threats to its people, its sovereignty, or its vital interests," he said. 

On June 15, the secretary general of the Arab League, Ahmed Aboul Gheit, urged Iran to "reverse course" on the sidelines of a meeting with UN secretary general Antonio Guterres. "My call to my Iranian — and I call them Iranian brothers: Be careful and reverse course because you're pushing everybody towards a confrontation that no one would be safe if it happens.” Guterres called for an independent inquiry into the incident.