Dangerous escalation in the Gulf region

Nobody is duped by Tehran’s attempts to distance itself from the incidents.
Sunday 19/05/2019
US Marines prepare to land an MV-22B Osprey aboard the USS Lewis B. Puller in the Arabian Gulf, May 11, 2019. (Reuters)
US Marines prepare to land an MV-22B Osprey aboard the USS Lewis B. Puller in the Arabian Gulf, May 11, 2019. (Reuters)

With sabotage incidents against vessels docked in the United Arab Emirates and terror attacks on Saudi oil installations, tensions are rising in the Gulf region.

Four commercial vessels, including two Saudi oil tankers, were targets of sabotage May 12 off the coast of the United Arab Emirates, outside the Strait of Hormuz. Two days later, armed drones struck two Saudi oil pumping stations.

Nobody is duped by Tehran’s attempts to distance itself from the incidents by invoking “foreign conspiracies” or “Israeli mischief” to explain the attacks. Experts and military sources, including US officials, are said to suspect foul play by Iran and its proxies, even if investigations are still under way. US sources told Reuters that Yemeni or Iraqi proxies of Iran could be behind the sabotage.

Saudi Deputy Defence Minister Khalid bin Salman went further, calling the incidents “terrorist acts, ordered by the regime in Tehran and carried out by the Houthis.”

As for the drone attacks, Iran-backed Houthis claimed responsibility.

As regional proxies for Tehran, the Houthis have always enjoyed Iranian military help, especially when it came to drones. A 2018 UN report saw Iranian fingerprints on Houthi drones. It pointed out that such drones “are assembled from components supplied by an outside source and shipped into Yemen.”

Iran is choosing this very sensitive juncture to reaffirm its nuclear ambitions. Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei boasted that uranium enrichment should not be a difficult task for Iran.

Iran had recently threatened to resume higher enrichment in 60 days if no new nuclear deal was reached.

Gulf countries have chosen the path of caution and self-restraint. Continued provocations by Tehran are sorely testing that stance.

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