WASHINGTON DC (Kurdistan 24) - On Thursday, while on a visit to London to prepare for President Donald Trump’s upcoming visit there, White House National Security Advisor Amb. John Bolton told reporters that Iran was responsible for the May 12 sabotage of four oil tankers off the coast of the United Arab Emirates. He said that evidence demonstrating that would be presented to the UN Security Council, perhaps as early as next week.
Later on Thursday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo confirmed to journalists traveling with him to Germany that he had, indeed, seen the evidence, and “Ambassador Bolton got it right.”
Last Friday, Vice Admiral Michael Gilday, Director of the Joint Staff, told reporters that the Pentagon attributed the attack on the tankers “directly to limpet mines and those limpet mines to the IRGC (Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.)”
Before arriving in London, Bolton, on Wednesday, was in the UAE, where he said much the same, explaining that the attack on the four tankers was the result of "naval mines almost certainly from Iran.”
Glad to be in Abu Dhabi today where I met with Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan and National Security Advisor Sheikh Tahnoon bin Zayed Al Nahyan to discuss our strategic partnership and regional challenges. pic.twitter.com/2l5CfrDxWC— John Bolton (@AmbJohnBolton) May 29, 2019
“The US military concluded that Iranian divers planted timed magnetic mines on four ships,” according to a US official who spoke with The Wall Street Journal. “The mines exploded within 53 minutes of each other, creating similar holes up to five meters square,” the paper reported on Thursday.
That is also Riyadh’s position. Prince Turki al-Faisal—son of the late King Faisal, who fought with his father in the founding of modern Saudi Arabia—headed his country’s intelligence service until 2001, and from 2005 to 2007 Prince Turki was Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to Washington.
Writing in Al-Arabiya, he stated that the “synchronized sabotage” of the ships “would have required sophisticated preparations necessitating innate military capabilities,” as he attributed the attack to Tehran.
While in the UAE, Bolton also revealed that shortly before the assault on the four tankers, there had been a failed attempt to attack Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea port of Yanbu, the terminus of a major Saudi oil pipeline that runs east to west and provides an alternative oil export route to the Strait of Hormuz.
Two days after the tanker sabotage, Iranian-backed Houthi rebels, using drones, attacked pumping stations along that pipeline, causing the Saudis to briefly halt the flow of oil through it.
One targeted pumping station was 700 kilometers from the Yemeni border, Bloomberg News reported. The Houthis possess drones that can carry an explosive payload twice as far as that.
The threat posed by Iran is not a conventional military threat, as The Wall Street Journal explained. Rather, Tehran has build a force for “guerrilla tactics.” Iran has two navies: a conventional navy and an IRGC navy. It is the latter “that makes waters off Iran potentially treacherous.”
A “paramilitary force,” the IRGC Navy is “equipped to swarm hostile vessels with fast boats armed with torpedoes and short-range missiles and small patrol craft equipped with machine guns and rocket launchers.”
Since 2007, Iran’s two navies “have had a division of responsibility.” The IRGC is responsible for the Persian Gulf, while it divides the Strait of Hormuz with the regular navy, whose area of responsibility extends eastwards into the Gulf of Oman and the Indian Ocean, all the way to Indonesia.
Some 20 percent of the world’s oil passes through the Strait of Hormuz, which is less than two miles wide. Iran has sporadically threatened to close the strait, although to do so would invite a major conflict, while Iran would deny itself the ability to export its own oil through the vital waterway.
Editing by Nadia Riva