Are the United States and Iran inching towards conflict?
On June 13, two commercial oil tankers caught fire in suspected attacks in the Gulf of Oman. Both the US and Iran claimed their navies were involved in rescuing some of those who were caught on the ships in question. But the bigger headline was made soon after the rescues, when the United States blamed Iran for the attacks. “This assessment is based on intelligence, weapons used, and the level of expertise needed to execute the operation,” he said.
The Singapore-owned Kokuka Courageous tanker had 21 crew members onboard, while the Norwegian-owned tanker Front Altair had 23.
Both caught fire while in the Gulf of Oman, not far from the Strait of Hormuz, through which a third of the world’s liquid natural gas and a fifth of oil passes. Any tensions in this area lead to an immediate rise in oil prices and fears of further conflict.
Soon after the American statement, Iran rejected the claims, dismissing them as “unfounded”. The Americans initially did not provide any material evidence to back up their claims blaming Iran for the incident.
Later in the day, the United States armed forces released a video that allegedly shows Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, aboard a boat, removing an unexploded mine attached to Kokura Courageous.
The latest round of tensions should cause alarm to leaders not just in the region but in India too, which depends heavily on natural gas and oil that comes through the Strait of Hormuz. Moreover, about 7 million Indian citizens live in the Persian Gulf, which would be engulfed in any conflict involving the US and Iran.
The current crisis was precipitated by the American withdrawal from a deal to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons, which was agreed to after painstaking negotiations between Tehran and the international community led by the US and Europe. US President Donald Trump, after coming to power, withdrew from the agreement and put fresh sanctions on Iran, making it much harder for the country to carry out business activities, prompting threats from Tehran to go back on other portions of the accord.
For the moment, the other members of the agreement, primarily European nations, continue to honour it as has Tehran, but the current tensions and concerns that Iran’s economy will see an even bigger slump may see more activity and sabre-rattling in this region in days to come.