The UAE said on Sunday that four commercial vessels of various nationalities were targeted by acts of sabotage off the emirate of Fujairah.
The New York Times reported late on Monday that the Trump administration is reviewing updated military plans for dealing with Iran should Iran attack USA forces or ramp up its nuclear weapons program.
Iran's Foreign Ministry Spokesman Abbas Mousavi described the maritime incident as "concerning and regrettable" and called for efforts to shed light on what exactly happened, the semi-official Tasnim News reported.
Oil futures rose on Monday on increasing concerns about supply disruptions in the Middle East even as investors and traders fretted over global economic growth prospects amid a standoff in the Sino-U.S. trade talks.
Iranian forces take part in the "National Persian Gulf day" in the Strait of Hormuz, on April 30. Iran is to the north and the UAE and Oman to the south. That was about 30% of crude and other oil liquids traded by sea in 2016.
- With global oil consumption standing at about 100 million bpd, that means nearly a fifth passes through the Strait.
- Most crude exported from Saudi Arabia, Iran, the UAE, Kuwait and Iraq - all members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) - is shipped through the waterway. The report originating from the state-run Saudi Press Agency said sabotage caused "significant damage to the structures of the two vessels" but did not report any deaths or spills from it.
As Iran begins the process of separating itself from the nuclear deal in response to U.S. sanctions, Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif arrived in Delhi Monday night to explain Tehran's point of view to the Indian leadership. The Islamic Republic has threatened to block oil shipments through the Strait of Hormuz if the US halts Iranian energy exports and to scale back its obligations under the 2015 nuclear deal. Washington pulled out of the pact in 2018.
Are there alternative routes for Gulf Oil?
- In July 1988, the United States warship Vincennes shot down an Iranian airliner, killing all 290 aboard, in what Washington said was an accident after crew mistook the plane for a fighter. The United States said the Vincennes was in the area to protect neutral vessels against Iranian navy attacks.
Trump last week declared himself open to talks with the Iranian leadership, a position reiterated on Monday by Brian Hook, the U.S. special envoy for Iran.
The incident occurred near the UAE emirate of Fujairah, it said, one of the world's largest bunkering hubs, which lies just outside the Strait of Hormuz. With little information about the oil tanker attacks, the incident stoked fears of a worst-case scenario: a confrontation between the USA and Iran. No one has claimed responsibility. If (emphasis on if) Iran had a role in this act of sabotage, it could have possibly signalled Tehran's determination to make Arab states that back the USA administration's anti-Iran policies pay a price and remind the UAE that Iran and its proxies are capable of targeting them.
Saudi Arabia said two of its oil tankers were attacked while sailing toward the Persian Gulf, adding to regional tensions as the USA increases pressure on Iran.
But the accusations immediately sparked fears of an escalation between the USA, whose Fifth Fleet in Bahrain protects commercial ships in the strait, and Iran, which borders it. Relations between the two countries are already strained due to President Donald Trump's decision to withdraw waivers that had blunted the impact of renewed sanctions on Iran. A Revolutionary Guards commander also said Iran would block all exports through the Strait if Iranian exports were stopped.