Coverage: Two tankers hit in Gulf of Oman amid rising U.S.-Iran tensions
Just a few weeks after an attack on four tankers in the Gulf of Oman, now two more have suffered an attack in the area as tensions between Washington and Tehran intensify.
Raf Sanchez and Gareth Davis had the news for The Daily Telegraph:
The tankers were struck in the same area where the US accused Iran of using naval mines to sabotage four other oil ships in an attack last month.
One of the tankers is carrying “Japan-related” cargo, and Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khameneni is meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Tehran.
As the news filtered from the Gulf, Iran’s Foreign Minister tweeted in English that, “suspicious doesn’t begin to describe what likely transpired this morning”.
CNBC’s Natasha Turak covered the oil price angle:
Brent crude spiked more than 3% on Thursday on reports of tanker explosions in the Gulf of Oman near the Iranian coastline.
In the early hours of European trading, the benchmark commodity went up as much as 4% before trading at $61.97 a barrel.
Tankers the Front Altair and the Kokuka Courageous have sustained significant fire damage and its crews have been evacuated, according to multiple shipping agents and chartering sources. The Kokuka Courageous, a chemical tanker that loaded in Saudi Arabia and was en route to Singapore, caught fire at the same time as the Front Altair just before 6:00 a.m. local time.
Bloomberg’s columnist Julian Lee discussed where the blame is most likely to be laid:
Who gains from these attacks?
The obvious answer is Iran. If Tehran is attacking tankers leaving the Persian Gulf – either directly, or through proxies – it sends a message that transit through the world’s most important choke point for global oil flows is not safe without its consent. If Iran is pushed to the brink economically by sanctions, it will not go quietly. Other nations in the region will bear the cost of disruptions to their own oil exports, while America and its allies will have to cope with higher crude prices and disruptions to supplies.
Brent crude was up by as much as 4.45% on Thursday, shortly after news of the attacks broke, although it has since lost some of those gains. The nation’s oil exports have been seriously curtailed by U.S. sanctions, and higher prices are its only route to increasing revenues. But the benefits are likely to be relatively small, given the dwindling volumes and steep discounts that the country probably has to offer to shift its oil.
There is another group that will benefit from the incident – the people who want to see the U.S. step up its campaign against Iran and move from an economic war to a military one. There are plenty of those, both in the U.S. and among its allies in the Persian Gulf and wider Middle East regions.