Tanker Attacks in the Straits of Hormuz: Iranian Brinksmanship
This morning, two oil Tankers, one Norwegian-owned Front Altair and other one the Japanese-owned Kokura Courageous were attacked in the Gulf of Oman. The Front Altair is burning, adrift, and evacuated and the other Kokura Courageous damaged, adrift, and evacuated. They appear to have been mined or hit with some other explosive device and in at least one case, several times. This follows attacks with mines on four Tankers a month ago, three Saudi Arabian and one Norwegian in May. All four tankers were attacked off the UAE with what appears to be Soviet-era limpet mines.
The attacks today appear to have been caused by much larger devices than limpet mines. There are unconfirmed reports that today’s attacks were carried out by either torpedoes, mines, or with projectiles. Iran and its Houthis allies were blamed for the previous attacks and are almost certainly behind today's strikes as Iran continues to play a game of brinksmanship with the US. They also come during the Japanese Prime Minister's visit to Iran to attempt to calm tensions with the US. The price of oil reached $53 a barrel this morning in reaction to the Tanker attacks.
It should be noted that the US reimpose sanctions on Iran have really started to impact the regime and its ability to trade international and fund its militia and terrorist activities throughout the Middle East region. Sanctions have also had the strategic effect of bolstering the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Israel while at the same time weakening Iran. Very clearly, the Iranian game of brinksmanship and the potential for both sides to over-react are geared to obtain international pressure on the US to end the sanctions and allow Iran to gain freedom of action throughout the region for its terrorist militia allies.
Finally, any potential closure of the Persian Gulf strategic shipping lanes would influence the global economy far out of proportion to its regional dynamic. Some 30 percent of the world’s crude oil supply moves through the strategic chokepoint of the Straits of Hormuz with 80 percent of it bound for Asia. ‘Flash to bang’ in terms of limited military strikes by the US and its allies on military targets related to Iran and its allies is a distinct possibility in the coming days. The potential for over-reaction and escalation by both sides remains high in a game of brinksmanship especially given that one actor is a theocracy with an apocalyptic view of world affairs. The US has said that any armed response would be linked to evidence directly implicating Iran, and the views of its regional allies.