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American Resistance To Empire

President Trump, Fire the Secretary of Sadism, John Bolton!

THE BEST WAY TO AVERT WAR WITH IRAN? FIRE JOHN BOLTON | OPINION

Iran’s decision to retaliate against the U.S. withdrawal from the nuclear deal was inevitable, so long as its back was pushed against the wall. Iran exercised “strategic patience” for the past year, hoping that the other parties to the deal would stand up to Trump’s bullying and defy U.S. sanctions if Iran remained fully compliant with the deal. Now it has decided on a measured response: to halt compliance with aspects of the accord that recent U.S. sanctions themselves obstruct but leave the window for diplomacy open.

The backdrop to Iran’s decision is incredibly dangerous brinkmanship from senior Trump officials, particularly National Security Advisor John Bolton. Even as Iran has kept open the option of climbing down the escalation ladder, war could become a fait accompli if Trump keeps Bolton in the White House.

Importantly, Iranian officials have stressed their countermeasures with respect to the U.S. withdrawal from the nuclear deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), are reversible and that Iran will not precipitate a conflict. Iranian President Rouhani was careful to state that Iran’s decision did not amount to a withdrawal from the deal, but was permitted by the agreement, in particular its clause that Iran will treat the reintroduction or reimposition of sanctions “as grounds to cease performing its commitments under this JCPOA in whole or in part.”

Rouhani proclaimed: “Today we don’t want to exit the JCPOA. All our people and the world should know that today is not the day of the JCPOA’s end.”

Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi has said in regards to Iran’s JCPOA decision that Tehran’s approach was centered on “diplomacy” and giving the other side “opportunities” to “make up for shortcomings.” Iran’s UN Ambassador Majid Takht Ravanchi has similarly also stated: “The window for diplomacy is not closed. We believe that Iran will negotiate with the remaining parties in the nuclear deal and we will have to see the results of these negotiations.”

However, while Iran views its JCPOA decision as a way to build leverage for a deal, Bolton appears to be ceaselessly cooking up ways to trigger a U.S.-Iran conflict. Long an advocate of U.S. military strikes against Iran, Bolton has spearheaded the imposition of unprecedented unilateral sanctions, all but seeking to eliminate Iranian oil exports, and provocatively bragging about the deployment of a carrier strike group to the Persian Gulf.

Iran’s retaliatory actions on the JCPOA now presage a flashpoint between the U.S. and Iran. Herein lies the risk for Tehran. By entering a tit-for-tat with the Trump administration, Bolton will ensure that escalation becomes self-propelling and impossible to reverse. While Trump appears to not want a war, Bolton could see him sleepwalk into one.

There are signs that Trump is increasingly frustrated with Bolton. CNN reports that the president has “told friends that if Bolton had his way he’d already be at war in multiple places.” At a rally earlier this week in Florida, Trump also stated that he hopes for a “fair deal” with Iran, adding: “We aren’t looking to hurt anybody. We just don’t want them to have nuclear weapons. That’s all we want.” The later statement is directly at odds with the reality of Trump’s Iran policy, which by all accounts Bolton is driving.

Bolton, an Iraq War architect, is in fact emulating the George W. Bush playbook that led to that disastrous conflict. His Iran strategy has been marked by inaccurately tying Iran to al-Qaeda, baselessly stating that Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons, and politicizing intelligence assessments on Iran. Bolton’s recent threat of “unrelenting force” against Iran was also based on vague intelligence regarding an alleged Iranian plot, raising the prospects of a Gulf of Tonkin-like false flag that can set of a catastrophic, region-wide conflict.

Egged on by Bolton, President Trump is recklessly and needlessly restarting the Iranian nuclear crisis. If Trump is sincere about seeking a deal with Tehran, he has been misled on the efficacy of his approach by Bolton, which is only rapidly negating prospects for diplomatic compromise. Iranian officials have made clear their readiness for de-escalation and preference to remain in the JCPOA. The major question now is whether Trump himself wants another major Middle Eastern war.

A U.S. war against Iran is hard to imagine. Even a botched-up limited military strike has the potential to sink Trump’s presidency, as happened with Jimmy Carter after the failure of Operation Eagle Claw in Iran. On the other hand, a campaign to destroy Iran’s nuclear facilities, which are spread across the country, would require a massive military operation and would trigger an all-out war with Iran. Trump alone will have to face the music for this conflict going into 2020, not John Bolton. But so long as Bolton remains in the White House, the risk of such a war will keep growing.

Sina Toossi is a research associate at the National Iranian American Council (NIAC.) He tweets @SinaToossi.

The War on Terror is in peril

“The attacks in Sri Lanka underline the many cracks in the concept of a global War on Terror.” Security personnel inspect the interior of St. Sebastian’s Church in Negombo, Sri Lanka, on April 22, a day after a bomb blast in the church. AFP

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The world needs to be united on the issue of terrorism and resolve contradictions in the fight

The brutal attacks on Easter Sunday in Sri Lanka, for which the Islamic State (IS) claimed responsibility, have reignited discussion on the global ‘War on Terror’. Scholars and officials across the world are studying the links of the bombers to the IS’s former ‘Caliphate’ in Syria, where at least two of the bombers are believed to have travelled, and several leaders have now called for a greater focus on the global dimensions of the counter-terrorism effort. The attacks in Sri Lanka, however, also underline the many cracks in the concept of a global ‘War on Terror’, and raise questions on what it has achieved in the time since the term was coined by former U.S. President George W. Bush after the September 11 attacks in 2001.

A floundering war

First, the original mission that the War on Terror was named for is floundering. Not only has the coalition of about 60 countries that sent troops and offered logistical support for ‘Operation Enduring Freedom’ failed to end terrorism in Afghanistan, it appears it is preparing to hand the country back to the oppressive Taliban regime that it defeated in December 2001. This, despite the fact there is no guarantee that the terror groups living in safe havens in Pakistan will not also have the run of Afghanistan once the coalition pulls out.

ALSO READ
A policeman frisks a devotee as he arrives at a mosque to attend prayer in Colombo after the bomb blasts on April 21.

A new fault line in post-war Sri Lanka

The war in Afghanistan was only one of the many coalitions the U.S. led in the name of the War on Terror: 46 nations joined the ‘coalition of the willing’ to defeat Saddam Hussein in Iraq in 2003, and 19 were a part of the coalition that ousted Muammar Qaddafi from power in Libya in 2011. The U.S. and allied countries were sidetracked by the ‘Arab Spring’ in 2011, which led them to bolster anti-Bashar al-Assad groups in Syria. This eventually paved the way for the IS to establish a ‘Caliphate’ in territories in Syria and Iraq. The next coalition was formed to fight the terror of the IS. The number of global terror attacks (maintained in a Global Terrorism Database by the University of Maryland of events from 1970 to 2018) per year went up from 1,000 in 2004 to 17,000 in 2014. It is clear that the countries in question — Afghanistan, Syria, Libya and Iraq — are far from free of the spectre of terrorism. Despite the defeat of the ‘Caliphate’ territorially, the IS or its franchises are appearing in new parts of the world. Sri Lanka is the latest on that list.

Second, rather than helping fight pan-Islamist terror groups, the War on Terror appears to help the IS and al-Qaeda more, giving them a footprint far bigger than their actual abilities. This helps them recruit and radicalise Muslim youth from around the globe, and allows them to own terrorists around the world as their own, as IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi did in a rare video posted shortly after the Easter Sunday attacks.

Not a ‘fight for Islam’

Third, the narrative they build of a “fight for Islam” is equally false. According to the Global Terrorism Database, of the 81 terror attacks in which more than 100 were killed (high casualty) since 2001, more than 70 were carried out in Islamic or Muslim-majority countries. In a specific search of high casualty terror attacks on religious institutions since 2001, 18 of the top 20 were by Islamist groups on mosques. The War on Terror thus appears to be a concept peddled mostly by pan-Islamist groups and propagated most often by extremists of other religions as a motive for terror attacks, such as the 2011 Utoya island attack in Norway or the New Zealand attacks this year. Governments in countries affected by terrorism must not subscribe to this narrative blindly.

ALSO READ
Security personnel stand guard near St. Anthony’s Shrine in Colombo on April 24, 2019, three days after a series of bomb blasts targeting churches and luxury hotels in Sri Lanka.

Easter Sunday bombings: Why Sri Lanka?

In Sri Lanka, for example, the reason the members of the National Thowheed Jamaath (NTJ) were successful in their diabolical plot had as much to do with the fact that intelligence inputs given by India were ignored as it did with the fact that since the defeat of the LTTE, Sri Lankan authorities had let their guard down and ignored growing internal fault lines. As a result, despite complaints about the speeches that suspected mastermind Mohamed Zahran Hashim made as a preacher of a mosque in Sri Lanka’s Eastern province, he went unchallenged. Police and intelligence agencies also failed to keep a stern eye on other NTJ bombers who were IS returnees, despite the fact that only about 32 Sri Lankans in all are believed to have travelled to IS territory.

Approaches to fighting terror

Fourth, it is necessary for countries fighting terrorism to learn more closely from their differences, rather than try to generalise from experience. Comparing European states like the U.K., France and Belgium, where hundreds of immigrant Muslims have enlisted for the IS, to South Asian states like India, where Muslim populations are indigenous and only a few dozen are believed to have left for Syria, is akin to comparing apples and oranges. Indian officials have also claimed a higher success in deradicalising IS returnees, because they have enlisted whole families, neighbourhoods and local Maulvis in their efforts. In Bangladesh too, after the 2016 attack on the Holey Artisan Bakery, government advertisements asked mothers to check on their children’s activities. This acknowledgement that radicalised terrorists are a part of a community is in stark contrast to the current debate in many European countries that are refusing to take IS returnees and their families back. Similarly, several Central Asian states propagate a much more hard-line approach on counter-radicalisation, by banning beards and hijabs, while China’s re-education internment camps in Xinjiang have raised questions about human rights. The success or failure of each of these approaches must be studied before deciding their applicability elsewhere.

Fifth, the world community must address contradictions in the War on Terror. For 20 years, the world has failed to agree on a common definition of terrorism at the United Nations. This has held up the passage of the Indian-sponsored proposal for a Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism. Despite the fact that Jaish-e-Mohammad chief Masood Azhar has been targeting Indians incessantly for years, they must ask why China allowed his UN Security Council designation as a global terrorist only after mentions of his attacks in India were removed. They must ask why the U.S. is focused on billing Iran the “world’s biggest state sponsor of terrorism”, while states like Saudi Arabia and Pakistan that have funded and sheltered Islamist terror groups are still treated as “frontline allies” on terror. And why, despite all their resources and expertise, the alliance of the U.S., the U.K., Canada, Australia and New Zealand that share global intelligence was unable to see the impending threat in Sri Lanka. Unless the world is truly united on the issue and resolves such contradictions, the global War on Terror will only be as strong as its weakest link.

suhasini.h@thehindu.co.in

Pakistan Reels Under Series of Proxy Attacks In Past Week, Balochistan Primary Target BLA/TTP

5 policemen martyred in explosion targeting Elite Force vehicle near Lahore’s Data Darbar–May 8

Tribal leader among 3 killed in Chaman blast–May 8

5 people killed in Gwadar PC hotel attack; army concludes clearance operation–May 12

4 policemen martyred in blast in Quetta’s Satellite Town–May 13, 2019

A vehicle was damaged in a blast in a market in Quetta's Satellite Town. — DawnNewsTV screengrab
A vehicle was damaged in a blast in a market in Quetta’s Satellite Town. — DawnNewsTV screengrab

QUETTA: Rescue workers gather at the scene of the bomb blast in Satellite Town here on Monday.—INP
QUETTA: Rescue workers gather at the scene of the bomb blast in Satellite Town here on Monday.—INP

QUETTA: At least four police personnel were martyred and 12 others, including some policemen, wounded in a blast near a mosque in the Satellite Town area of the provincial capital on Monday night.

The blast took place shortly after a police van arrived at the site to provide security to the people offering taraveeh prayers at the mosque, officials said.

This was the second major terrorist attack in Balochistan within the last three days, as previously a luxury hotel in Gwadar came under attack.

“The police vehicle carrying personnel for mosque security was targeted in the blast in which our four personnel of Rapid Response Group (RRG) lost their lives, while the condition of another was stated to be serious,” said Quetta DIG Razzaq Cheema while speaking to Dawn.

Four policemen martyred in Quetta bomb blast; Taliban claim responsibility

The officer said an improvised explosive device planted in a motorcycle went off close to the police van. Sources said unidentified people parked the explosive-laden motorbike near the mosque in Satellite Town area and detonated it by remote control when the police van arrived there.

As a result, one police constable died on the spot while 15 others, including seven police personnel, were wounded.

Police, Frontier Corps personnel and rescue workers rushed to the site and shifted the body and the wounded victims to the Civil Hospital Quetta.

“Three police officials among the injured died soon after being brought here at the hospital,” officials at the healthcare facility said. They added other wounded were admitted to the hospital. “The condition of another policeman is serious, as he sustained multiple wounds,” said a senior official.

Many vehicles parked in the area were damaged and windowpanes of nearby buildings were shattered due to the impact of the powerful blast though the mosque remained safe in the attack.

Four RRG men who lost their lives in the blast were identified as Mohammad Ishaq, Ghulam Nabi, Mushtaq Shah and Zulfiqar Ali.

Security forces cordoned off the area and launched a search operation to trace the elements involved in the blast.

The Balochistan chief minister strongly condemned the blasts and said they could not demoralise the government and security forces. He vowed that the government and security forces would continue action against terrorists and their facilitators.

He directed law enforcement agencies to take all-out measures against terrorists and bring them to justice. He expressed sympathies with families of the martyred police personnel and said their sacrifices would always be remembered.

The banned Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan claimed responsibility for the motorcycle bomb blast targeting the police vehicle.

Published in Dawn, May 14th, 2019

Eviction of Venezuelan Embassy Activists ‘Will Violate International Law’

US police raid Venezuelan embassy to evict pro-Maduro activists defending it from ‘illegal seizure’

With the threat of eviction, solidarity activists in the Venezuelan embassy in Washington DC released a statement saying that eviction and arrests would be unlawful.

By Embassy Protection Collective
Solidarity activists have mobilized to stop the Venezuelan embassy from being taken over by Guaido’s representatives. (Popular Resistance)

To: US State Department
Venezuelan Foreign Ministry
From: Embassy Protection Collective
Re: Exiting the Venezuelan Embassy
Date: May 13, 2019

This is the 34th day of our living in the Venezuelan embassy in Washington, DC. We are prepared to stay another 34 days, or however long is needed to resolve the embassy dispute in a peaceful way consistent with international law.

This memo is being sent to the US and Venezuela as well as members of our Collective and allies. We are encouraging people to publish this memo as a transparent process is needed to prevent the US from making a unilateral decision that could impact the security of embassies around the world and lead to military conflict.

There are two ways to resolve the issues around the Venezuelan embassy in DC, which we will explain.

Before doing so, we reiterate that our collective is one of independent people and organizations not affiliated with any government. While we are all US citizens, we are not agents of the United States. While we are here with permission of the Venezuelan government, we are not their agents or representatives.

We are here in the embassy lawfully. We are breaking no laws. We did not unlawfully enter and we are not trespassing.

1. Exiting with a Protecting Power Agreement

The exit from the embassy that best resolves issues to the benefit of the United States and Venezuela is a mutual Protecting Power Agreement. The United States wants a Protecting Power for its embassy in Caracas. Venezuela wants a Protecting Power for its embassy in DC. Such agreements are not uncommon when diplomatic relations are severed.

A Protecting Power Agreement would avoid a military conflict that could lead to war. A war in Venezuela would be catastrophic for Venezuela, the United States, and for the region. It would lead to lives lost and mass migration from the chaos and conflict of war. It would cost the United States trillions of dollars and become a quagmire involving allied countries around the world.

We are serving as interim protectors in the hope that the two nations can negotiate this resolution. If this occurs we will take the banners off the building, pack our materials, and leave voluntarily. The electricity could be turned on and we will drive out.

We suggest a video walk-through with embassy officials to show that the Embassy Protection Collective did not damage the building. The only damage to the building has been inflicted by coup supporters in the course of their unprosecuted break-ins.

2. The United States violates the Vienna Convention, makes an illegal eviction and unlawful arrests

This approach will violate international law and is fraught with risks. The United States would have to cut the chains in the front door put up by embassy staff and violate the embassy. We have put up barriers there and at other entrances to protect us from constant break-ins and threats from the trespassers whom the police are permitting outside the embassy. The police’s failure to protect the embassy and the US citizens inside has forced us to take these actions.

The Embassy Protectors will not barricade ourselves, or hide in the embassy in the event of an unlawful entry by police. We will gather together and peacefully assert our rights to remain in the building and uphold international law.

Any order to vacate based on a request by coup conspirators that lack governing authority will not be a lawful order. The coup has failed multiple times in Venezuela. The elected government is recognized by the Venezuelan courts under Venezuelan law and by the United Nations under international law. An order by the US-appointed coup plotters would not be legal.

Such an entry would put embassies around the world and in the United States at risk. We are concerned about US embassies and personnel around the world if the Vienna Convention is violated at this embassy. It would set a dangerous precedent that would likely be used against US embassies.

If an illegal eviction and unlawful arrests are made, we will hold all decision-makers in the chain of command and all officers who enforce unlawful orders accountable.

If there is a notice that we are trespassing and need to vacate the premises, please provide it to our attorney Mara Verhayden-Hilliard, copied on this memo.

We have taken care of this embassy and request a video tour of the building before any arrests.

We hope a wise and calm solution to this issue can be achieved so escalation of this conflict can avoided.

There is no need for the United States and Venezuela to be enemies. Resolving this embassy dispute diplomatically should lead to negotiations over other issues between the nations.

The Embassy Protection Collective
May 13, 2019

Fujairah explosions, from denial to security scandal

Fujairah explosions, from denial to security scandal

TEHRAN, May 13 (MNA) – While Abu Dhabi initially denied the Fujairah explosions on Sunday, the country had to reveal the truth only in a matter of hours and acknowledge the security gap behind the incident.

The news on several heavy explosions in the port of Fujairah in the United Arab Emirates was first revealed by Lebanon-based Al-Mayadeen TV on Sunday.

Although the real reason behind the incident has not been revealed yet, the early reports, citing eyewitnesses, further suggested that American and French warplanes have been seen flying over the port at the time of the incident.

The blasts were heard between 4:00 a.m. and 7:00 a.m. local time (00:00 — 03:00 GMT), the broadcaster reported, adding that from seven to 10 oil tankers were in flames.

Despite Al-Mayadeen’s news that was picked up and reported by other media in a few minutes, the UAE government hastily denied the reports, insisting that the port was functioning as usual; however, it had to admit to the security catastrophe sooner or later.

From denial to scandal

The UAE, later on Sunday, confirmed that four commercial vessels were hit by sabotage near the emirate of Fujairah. The Persian Gulf state gave no details on the nature of the sabotage or who was behind it.

Saudi Arabia said on Monday that two Saudi oil tankers were among vessels targeted by the attack.

Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih said that while the attack did not lead to any casualties or an oil spill, it caused significant damage to the structures of the two vessels.

UAE called on the international community and international organizations concerned with maritime navigation to assume their political and legal responsibilities to prevent such acts by any parties attempting to undermine maritime traffic safety and security, adding that such irresponsible acts will increase tension and conflicts in the region and expose its peoples to great danger

Hiding security crisis in UAE

The fact is that United Arab Emirates officials have been trying to cover up the existence of a major security void in the port of Fujairah since the very first moment of the incident and hide a major security crisis in this important harbor to misguide the general public.

In fact, all media manipulation and mobilization of propaganda to prevent the spread of massive explosions in the port of Fujairah by Abu Dhabi authorities was carried out for this purpose: Emiratis intended to hide the incident on this scale by exploiting their media and advertising facilities.

Another point to be considered is that the news of major explosions was a few hours after the media incident, and this is another big scandal for Abu Dhabi, as many political experts and observers believe that the country may have seen similar incidents in the past, and has hidden them from the public by its dominance on the media.

Rage over revelation of security gap

But another issue is that UAE officials are quite anxious about the emergence of a major “security gap” in their country.

Despite many efforts and mobilization of all the media and propaganda tools, Abu Dhabi did not succeed in preventing the publication of the news.

The reason that this issue has been so important for Emiratis is that the country has been killing the innocent and defenseless people of Yemen along with the Saudi insurgent regime, and it has previously been targeted by Yemen’s ballistic missiles and popular Yemeni committees.

Therefore, Abu Dhabi officials are deeply concerned that large-scale explosions at the port of Fujairah have exposed the security gaps in the port to the public, and there is a possibility that Yemeni groups, in response to the numerous Emirati aggressions, will target Fujairah in the future, as they have previously targeted Abu Dhabi.

Emirates worry about similar attacks

There is also a major concern with Emirati officials that similar attacks may occur in the future on the country’s economic or even military infrastructures. This has also become a concern to the Saudi authorities as Emirati’s main allies.

Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are well aware that waging massive attacks on their military and economic infrastructure can greatly affect foreign investments in these countries.

Therefore, Riyadh and Abu Dhabi, while always trying to make their countries a focal point of peace and stability in the region, are now facing a lot of military and economic concerns, and the blasts of the UAE’s Fujairah port have increased and intensified such worries.

By: Ramin Hossein Abadian

Gulf Tankers Attack Just Another “False Flag” Provocation?

[As you can see from the first photo below, there is no obvious scorching or point of blast.  Apparently, whatever hit the side of the double-hulled ship did not explode.  Considering the location of the attack, it is probably a false flag incident, staged to implicate Iran. (Compare to second photo below of Japanese tanker M. Star,  Jul 29, 2010 attack.)]

“Reports, citing eyewitnesses, further suggested that American and French warplanes have been seen flying over the port at the time of the incident.”–Sputnik

This photo provided by the United Arab Emirates' National Media Council shows the Norwegian-flagged oil tanker MT Andrea Victory off the coast of Fujairah, United Arab Emirates, Monday, May 13, 2019. Two Saudi oil tankers and a Norwegian-flagged vessel were damaged in what Gulf officials described Monday as a "sabotage" attack off the coast of the United Arab Emirates. While details of the incident remain unclear, it raised risks for shippers in a region vital to global energy supplies at a time of increasing tensions between the U.S. and Iran over its unraveling nuclear deal with world powers. (United Arab Emirates National Media Council via AP)

This photo provided by the United Arab Emirates’ National Media Council shows the Norwegian-flagged oil tanker MT Andrea Victory off the coast of Fujairah, United Arab Emirates, Monday, May 13, 2019. Two Saudi oil tankers and a Norwegian-flagged vessel were damaged in what Gulf officials described Monday as a “sabotage” attack off the coast of the United Arab Emirates. While details of the incident remain unclear, it raised risks for shippers in a region vital to global energy supplies at a time of increasing tensions between the U.S. and Iran over its unraveling nuclear deal with world powers. (United Arab Emirates National Media Council via AP)

“Hull of a Norwegian-registered product tanker was damaged by an unknown object off the coast of the United Arab Emirates port of Fujairah on Sunday…”–Maritime Executive

The damaged M. Star arrives in Fujairah to be examined.WAM
[Previous false flag oil tanker attack near Fujairah, UAE, Jul 29, 2010.]

By JON GAMBRELL

Associated Press

FUJAIRAH, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Two Saudi oil tankers and a Norwegian-flagged vessel were damaged in what Gulf officials described Monday as a “sabotage” attack off the coast of the United Arab Emirates. While details of the incident remain unclear, it raised risks for shippers in a region vital to global energy supplies at a time of increasing tensions between the U.S. and Iran over its unraveling nuclear deal with world powers.

The U.S. issued a new warning to sailors as the UAE’s regional allies condemned Sunday’s alleged attack that the UAE says targeted four ships off the coast of its port city of Fujairah.
It came just hours after Iranian and Lebanese media outlets aired “false reports” [?] of explosions at the port [Despite Emirati original denials, the media has now confirmed that 4 of the 5 ships reported by PressTV were attacked.].

[The following list of allegedly damaged oil tankers are all currently anchored at Fujairah–ed.] 

Crude oil tanker AMJAD, IMO 9779800, dwt 300000, built 2017, flag Saudi Arabia.
Crude oil tanker AL MARZOQAH, IMO 9165762, dwt 105084, built 1999, flag Saudi Arabia.
Product tanker MIRAJ, IMO 9394741, dwt 7414, built 2007, flag Dominica.
Product tanker A MICHEL, IMO 9177674, dwt 6711, built 2007, flag UAE..
Product tanker FNSA 10, IMO 9432074, dwt 6453, built 2007, flag UAE.

While Gulf officials declined to say who they suspect may be responsible, the U.S. has warned ships that “Iran or its proxies” could be targeting maritime traffic in the region. America is deploying an aircraft carrier and B-52 bombers to the Persian Gulf to counter alleged, still-unspecified threats from Tehran.

The scale of the alleged sabotage also remains unclear. A statement from Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih said the kingdom’s two oil tankers, including one due to later carry crude to the U.S., sustained “significant damage.” However, a report from Sky News Arabia, a satellite channel owned by an Abu Dhabi ruling family member,

showed the allegedly targeted Saudi tanker Al Marzoqah afloat without any apparent damage.

The MT Andrea Victory, another of the allegedly targeted ships, sustained a hole in its hull just above its waterline from “an unknown object,” its owner Thome Ship Management said in a statement. Images Monday of the Andrea Victory, which the company said was “not in any danger of sinking,” showed damage similar to what the firm described.

AMJADEmirati officials identified the third ship as the Saudi-flagged oil tanker Amjad. Ship-tracking data showed the vessel still anchored off Fujairah, apparently not in immediate distress.

A.MICHELThe fourth ship was the A. Michel, a bunkering tanker flagged in Sharjah, one of the UAE’s seven emirates.

A U.S. official told The Associated Press that American naval investigators were assisting the Emiratis with their probe of the incident. The official was not authorized to discuss details of the assistance publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.

The U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet, which patrols the Persian Gulf and wider region from its base in Bahrain, declined to comment on the incident. The Navy runs a small supply operation out of the nearby Emirati naval base in Fujairah.

Authorities in Fujairah, also a UAE emirate, also declined to speak to the AP. Emirati officials stopped AP journalists from traveling by boat to see the ships.

However, the incident raises questions about maritime security in the UAE, home to Dubai’s Jebel Ali port, the largest man-made deep-water harbor in the world that is also the U.S. Navy’s busiest port of call outside of America. From the coast, AP journalists saw an Emirati coast guard vessel patrolling near the area of one of the Saudi ships in Fujairah, some 130 miles (210 kilometers) northeast of Dubai on the Gulf of Oman.

Fujairah also is about 140 kilometers (85 miles) south of the Strait of Hormuz, the narrow mouth of the Persian Gulf through which a third of all oil at sea is traded. The alleged sabotage caused jitters in global oil markets, as benchmark Brent crude rose in trading to over $71.50 a barrel Monday, a change of 1.3%.

Al-Falih, the Saudi energy minister, said the attacks on the two Saudi tankers happened at 6 a.m. Sunday. He said “the attack didn’t lead to any casualties or oil spill,” though he acknowledge it affected “the security of oil supplies to consumers all over the world.”

It is “the joint responsibility of the international community to protect the safety of maritime navigation and the security of oil tankers, to mitigate against the adverse consequences of such incidents on energy markets, and the danger they pose to the global economy,” he said, according to the statement carried by the state-run Saudi Press Agency.

The U.S. Energy Department later said it was “monitoring the oil markets, and is confident they remain well-supplied.”

Shortly after the Saudi announcement, Iran’s Foreign Ministry called for further clarification about what exactly happened with the vessels. The ministry’ spokesman, Abbas Mousavi, was quoted by the official IRNA news agency as saying there should be more information about the incident.
Mousavi also warned against any “conspiracy orchestrated by ill-wishers” and “adventurism by foreigners” to undermine the maritime region’s stability and security. Both the UAE and Saudi Arabia are staunch opponents of Iran’s government.

Tensions have risen since President Donald Trump withdrew America from the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers, and restored U.S. sanctions that have pushed Iran’s economy into crisis. Last week, Iran warned it would begin enriching uranium at higher levels in 60 days if world powers failed to negotiate new terms for the deal.

European Union officials met Monday in Brussels to thrash out ways to keep the Iran nuclear deal afloat. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had traveled there for talks.

“We’re not going to miscalculate. Our aim is not war,” Pompeo told CNBC in an interview. “Our aim is a change in the behavior of the Iranian leadership.”

Underling the regional risk, the general-secretary of the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council described the incident as a “serious escalation.”

“Such irresponsible acts will increase tension and conflicts in the region and expose its peoples to great danger,” Abdullatif bin Rashid al-Zayani said. Bahrain, Egypt and Yemen’s internationally recognized government similarly condemned the alleged sabotage, as did the Arab League.

The U.S. Maritime Administration, a division of the U.S. Transportation Department, warned Thursday that “Iran and/or its regional proxies” could target commercial sea traffic.

The agency issued a new warning Sunday to sailors about the alleged sabotage and urged shippers to exercise caution in the area for the next week.

It remains unclear if the previous warning from the U.S. Maritime Administration is the same perceived threat that prompted the White House on May 4 to order the USS Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier strike group and the B-52 bombers to the region. In a statement then, national security adviser John Bolton had warned Iran that “that any attack on United States interests or on those of our allies will be met with unrelenting force.”
___
Associated Press writers Aya Batrawy in Dubai, Bassem Mroue in Beirut, Amir Vahdat in Tehran, Iran, Malak Harb in Fujairah, United Arab Emirates, and Lolita C. Baldor in Washington contributed.