Two of the four cargo ships sabotaged on Sunday, May 12, off Fujairah were oil tankers, said Saudi energy minister Khalid al-Falih on Monday., calling the attack “a threat to the security of global oil supplies.” One was on its way to be loaded with Saudi crude from the port of Ras Tanura for delivery to Saudi Aramco’s customers in the United States, he said in a statement, adding there were no casualties or an oil spill, only substantial damage to the ships’ structure. Falih did not mention the vessels’ ownership.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo Monday postponed his trip to Russia without explanation and headed straight for Brussels for talks with US NATO allies on the crisis with Iran.
On Sunday night, the UAE Foreign Ministry in Abu Dhabi reported that four cargo ships were hit by “sabotage operations” earlier that day near UAE waters off the Fujairah emirate. The UAE Foreign Ministry in Abu Dhabi reported that no injuries or spillage of harmful chemicals or fuel had occurred, indicating that the ships were fuel tankers. Work continued as usual at Fujairah port, the statement said. Neither the Saudi nor the UAE statements cited the perpetrator of the “sabotage attack” or its nature.
The UAE had denied an earlier report by local media of “heavy explosions” at the port of Fujairah early Sunday. According to first reports US and French warplanes were flowing overhead at the time and from 7 to 10 oil tankers are in flames. The UAE is currently expanding the port to hold the world’s largest crude oil storage facility, capable of storing up to 14 million barrels of oil.
DEBKAfile’s military and intelligence sources reported that despite the careful omissions in the official statements, it is obvious that Gulf oil and gas shipping came under attack from a party in the region. The obvious candidate is Iran, whose Revolutionary Guards and their fleet are fully capable of carrying out Tehran’s first major reprisal for US sanctions on its oil exports. From the Saudi statement that the oil on one of the stricken ships attacked in UAE waters was destined for “customers in the United States, ” it may be inferred that Tehran found a way to vent itself on two if not three of its enemies with a single blow. Iranian officials have declared that if Tehran can’t export its oil, neither will anyone else. Washington has so far made no response to this attack. A statement may be expected after Pompeo’s talks in Brussels. O Tuesday, he is due to make his delayed visit Sochi for talks with President Vladimir Putin.