Saudi seeks oil supply protection as US and Iran face off

Published: 16 Jun 2019   

Online Desk

FILE PHOTO: An oil tanker is seen after it was attacked at the Gulf of Oman, in waters between Gulf Arab states and Iran, June 13, 2019 - Reuters

Saudi Arabia called for swift action to secure Gulf energy supplies and joined the United States in blaming Iran for attacks on two oil tankers in a vital shipping route that have raised fears of broader confrontation in the region. 

Thursday’s tanker attacks in the Gulf of Oman exacerbated the antagonistic fallout from similar blasts in May that crippled four vessels. Washington, already embroiled in a standoff with Iran over its nuclear program, has blamed Tehran and Saudi Arabia’s crown prince also accused Iran on Saturday.

Iran has denied any role in the strikes on the tankers south of the Strait of Hormuz, a major transit route for oil from Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest crude exporter, and other Gulf producers, Reuters reports. 

Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih said there must be “a rapid and decisive response to the threat” to energy supplies, market stability and consumer confidence, his ministry said on Twitter. 

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, in an interview with Saudi-owned newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat, blamed Iran and called on the international community to take a “decisive stand” against the attacks.

“The kingdom does not want a war in the region but it will not hesitate to deal with any threats to its people, its sovereignty, or its vital interests,” the crown prince said.

The U.S. military released a video on Thursday that it said showed Iran’s Revolutionary Guards were behind the explosions that damaged the Norwegian-owned Front Altair and the Japanese-owned Kokuka Courageous.

“Iran did do it and you know they did it because you saw the boat,” U.S. President Donald Trump told Fox News on Friday.

The United States has tightened sanctions on Iran since Washington withdrew from a 2015 nuclear pact between Tehran and global powers last year. Washington’s stated aim is to drive Iranian oil exports, the mainstay of its economy, to zero.

Tehran has said that if its oil exports were halted, it could block the Strait of Hormuz, a narrow channel of water separating Iran and Oman through which passes a fifth of the oil consumed globally. 

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