(Dubai) The United States implicated Iran on Wednesday in the “hijacking” of a ship off the United Arab Emirates, which ended without harm, six days after a deadly attack on an oil tanker in the Gulf for which Washington continues to call for a “coordinated response.” “.
Updated August 4, 2021
The circumstances of this new incident are still unclear.
US diplomatic spokesman Ned Price confirmed that the Asphalt Princess was initially “seized” by “personnel” who “abandoned” this Panamanian-flagged merchant ship.
“We believe these employees were Iranian, but we cannot officially confirm this at this time,” he added to the press. The day before, he had mentioned “very worrying military behavior by Iran” in the region’s waters, but had drawn no conclusions.
Earlier on Wednesday, the United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO), which on Tuesday reported a “potential hijacking” some 60 nautical miles (about 110 km) from the Emirate of Fujairah, a member of the Federation of United Arab Emirates, announced the incident was known “past”.
The people who went on board had “abandoned the ship,” which was “safe,” the British Navy’s safety agency said.
The Sultanate of Oman’s air force is flying over the area surrounding the site of the “hijacking incident,” which Navy ships were also dispatched to “to help secure international waters in the region,” according to a ministry press release. the defence.
Since February, several ships linked to Iran or Israel have been the target of sabotage and explosions in the Gulf.
And once again, Western eyes seem to be on Tehran.
The editor-in-chief of Lloyd’s List, which specializes in the shipping industry, Richard Meade, told the English newspaper The Times that “forces” had boarded the Asphalt Princess and were “directing them towards Iran”.
On Tuesday, Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said “the release of information about consecutive boat-related incidents in the Persian Gulf and Arabian Sea” was “completely suspicious.”
In a statement on Twitter, he warned against “creating a distorted situation for political reasons” and reiterated Iran’s “readiness to provide any kind of assistance in the event of any maritime accidents” in the region.
Israel, the United States, the United Kingdom and Romania have all accused Tehran of orchestrating last week’s Mercer Street attack, allegations Iran has flatly denied.
That attack, targeting an oil tanker managed by the company of an Israeli billionaire, Eyal Ofer, killed two people: a Briton and a Romanian.
US chief of diplomacy Antony Blinken met with his British counterpart Dominic Raab on Wednesday to discuss “ongoing efforts to provide a coordinated response to the Iranian attack,” according to Washington, which said it was also “very close” with them Romania to advise the rest of the international community.
The State Department also gave its “support” to London’s request for a UN Security Council response against Iran.
Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz has urged ambassadors in Jerusalem to “hold Iran accountable for its actions” and named a senior Iranian responsible for the tanker attack and other attacks at sea, he says.
“Saeed Ara Jani is the head of the IRGC’s drone squad,” he told the Revolutionary Guards, the Islamic Republic’s ideological army. “He is the man personally responsible for the terrorist attacks in the Gulf of Oman,” he said.
Those tensions come as Iran’s eighth and new president, the ultra-conservative Ebrahim Raisi, took office on Tuesday, succeeding the moderate Hassan Rouhani. He will have to work to restart an economy eroded by US sanctions and the health crisis, and to resume talks to save the international nuclear deal.