United States 'blames Iran' for damage to tankers in Gulf of Oman

United States 'blames Iran' for damage to tankers in Gulf of Oman”

According to Al Falih, the two stations - located in the Dawadmi and Afif governorates in Riyadh - were attacked between 6am and 6.30am on Tuesday, the official Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported.

Saudi Arabia's energy minister said on Monday that the attack aimed to undermine security of global crude supplies.

The Saudi tankers were among at least four oil-industry vessels, including ships from Norway and the UAE, attacked on Sunday in the Gulf of Oman off the UAE's eastern coast just outside the Strait of Hormuz as they prepared to cross into the Persian Gulf.

The 1,200-kilometre (750-mile) pipeline reportedly hit Tuesday serves as an alternative for Saudi crude exports if the strategically vital Strait of Hormuz at the mouth of the Gulf were to be closed.

Ambassador John Abizaid told reporters in the Saudi capital Riyadh today: "We need to do a thorough investigation to understand what happened, why it happened, and then come up with reasonable responses short of war".

On Tuesday morning, the Houthi group announced the implementation of a major military operation "using drones" against Saudi targets.

The Iranian reaction comes as The New York Times reported overnight that Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan had presented Trump with a military plan that could see 120,000 troops deployed in the Middle East if Iran were to attack American forces.

He said that the "terrorist act" proves the importance of confronting all "terrorist" entities that carry out such "subversive" acts, including "Houthi militias".

Gulf officials have characterised the damage to the tankers as a sabotage.

The U.S. has warned sailors of the potential for attacks on commercial sea traffic, and regional allies of the United Arab Emirates condemned the alleged sabotage as the tankers were off the coast of the UAE port city of Fujairah.

Details of the alleged sabotage to two Saudi, one Norwegian, and one Emirati oil tanker on Sunday remained unclear, and Gulf officials have declined to say who they suspected was responsible.

Notably, the latest developments come amid mounting tension between Iran and the USA after the Pentagon earlier this week announced the deployment of an aircraft carrier strike group to the Persian Gulf. No one was hurt and no oil spilled from the damaged ships.

Iran was a prime suspect in the sabotage on Sunday although Washington had no conclusive proof, a US official familiar with American intelligence said on Monday.

It is not known whether the two incidents are linked.

Iran and the United States have engaged in a war of words in recent weeks since Tehran began to roll back commitments set out in a landmark 2015 nuclear deal with world powers.

Turning up the pressure on Tehran after the United States deployed B-52 bombers and an assault ship to bolster an aircraft carrier in the region, President Donald Trump warned that Iran would "suffer greatly" were it to "do anything" to threaten USA interests.

What do we know about the "sabotage"?

"God willing we will pass this hard period with glory and our heads held high, and defeat the enemy", Rouhani said at a late night meeting with clerics.

Oil prices have risen more than 30 percent this year, supported by supply concerns as the United States has imposed sanctions on both Iran and Venezuela.

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