After oil tankers damaged, Trump warns Iran

After oil tankers damaged, Trump warns Iran

The strait, a vital global oil and gas shipping route, separates the Gulf states and Iran, which has been embroiled in an escalating war of words with the United States over sanctions and the U.S. military's presence in the region. Past year the Saudi government twice claimed Houthi rebels attacked crude tankers in transit in waters off Yemen, and threatened to divert ships from the Red Sea.

It also comes as US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is headed to Brussels to discuss Iran with French, British and German officials.

In response to this act of sabotage of a major tanker refuelling hub, the head of the Iranian parliament's national security committee tweeted that the incident illustrated the extent to which the southern Persian Gulf's security has recently become fragile.

On Monday, those tensions rose rapidly, as Saudi Arabia said several of its oil tankers that had passed through the strait had been sabotaged.

- During the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq war, the two sides sought to disrupt each other's oil exports in what was known as the Tanker War. The UAE foreign ministry on Sunday reported an attack on four commercial ships.

It came just hours after Iranian and Lebanese media outlets aired false reports of explosions at the port. Oil had been losing ground since late last month on signs that Saudi Arabia would pump more to make up for lost Iranian barrels and a looming trade war between the world's two largest economies, the US and China.

The precise nature of the incident remained unclear.

Saudi Arabia's Oil Minister Khalid al-Falih at a news conference in Vienna November 30, 2017.

Port officials take a photo of a damaged Andrea Victory ship at the Port of Fujairah, United Arab Emirates, May 13, 2019.

A general view of the port at Fujairah is shown. Reuters images showed the fourth vessel was the U.A.E. -flagged A. Michel, a fuel bunker barge. The Navy runs a small supply operation out of the nearby Emirati naval base in Fujairah.

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The U.S. Maritime Administration, a division of the U.S. Transportation Department, warned Thursday that "Iran and/or its regional proxies" could target commercial sea traffic.

UAE authorities said on Monday the incident is still under investigation, but whatever occurred, the affected ships were anchored off the coast of the Emirates near the Strait of Hormuz when it occurred.

Fujairah's port is about 140 kilometers (85 miles) south of the Strait of Hormuz, the narrow mouth of the Persian Gulf through which a third of all oil at sea is traded. Even as the S&P 500 was down more than 2 percent during midday trading on Monday, Brent crude was up 1.5 percent.

Al-Falih also said the attack aimed to undermine the "security of oil supplies to consumers all over the world" and emphasized the "joint responsibility of the worldwide community to protect" the safety of maritime navigation and oil tankers.

"The global community (needs to) assume its responsibilities to prevent any parties trying to undermine the security and safety of maritime traffic", the ministry said.

India was able to buy about 300,000 barrels per day (bpd) of Iranian oil under the waiver.

The attack caused "significant damage" to the vessels, Al-Falih said.

The ministry' spokesman, Abbas Mousavi, was quoted by the official IRNA news agency as saying there should be more information about the incident.

He called for "clarification" on what exactly happened and criticized the "negative impact of the incident on the security of the shipping industry and on maritime transit in the region", while also warning against "any malicious attempt by conspirators to undermine stability and security in the region" and calling for "the regional countries to be alert to any adventurism by foreign elements". Both the UAE and Saudi Arabia are staunch opponents of Iran's government.

"We'll see what happens with Iran, if they do anything it will be a big mistake", Trump told reporters when asked about rising tensions with Tehran.

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