[Editor’s note: The US is already blaming Iran and suggesting that at least one of these tankers has been hit by a torpedo. However, this may not be an attempt to start a war, rather it may simply be a cynical way of making massive profits from the international oil markets – the cost of a barrel went up several cents within hours of these attacks. If one had foreknowledge of the attacks, one could make a killing on the oil exchanges. If one or both of these ships was hit by a torpedo, it is far more likely to have come from a US or Israeli submarine than an Iranian craft. The fact that Iran benefits from a rise in the international oil price is ironic. Ian]
The Iranian foreign ministry expressed concern about the suspicious incidents for the Japan-related oil vessels in the Sea of Oman concurrently with Japanese Prime Minister Abe Shinzo’s visit to Tehran.
“We voice concern about the suspicious incidents which happened today for the oil tankers affiliated to Japan concurrently with a meeting between the Japanese prime minister and Supreme Leader (of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei),” Foreign Ministry Spokesman Seyed Abbas Mousavi wrote on his twitter page on Thursday.
He noted that Iran considers the incidents and the coincidence with Japanese prime minister’s trip to Tehran as against the regional and trans-regional efforts and stances to decrease tensions and establish tranquility in the region.
“Iran supports cooperation and talks in the region,” Mousavi said.
In relevant remarks on Thursday, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif also on his twitter page voiced suspicion about the incident for the oil tankers in the Sea of Oman, and reminded of the necessity for Tehran-proposed Regional Dialogue Forum.
He referred to the concurrency between reported attacks on Japan-related tankers” and the Japanese prime minister’s extensive talks with Ayatollah Khamenei, and wrote, “Suspicious doesn’t begin to describe what likely transpired this morning.”
“Iran’s proposed Regional Dialogue Forum is imperative,” Zarif stressed.
All crew members of the two oil tankers which were hit in the Sea of Oman were saved by Iranian rescue teams on Thursday.
Iranian rescue vessels have picked up the 23 crew members of one of the tankers and 21 of the other from the sea and brought them to safety at Iran’s Jask, in the Southern Hormozgan Province, an informed source said on Thursday.
Earlier, media reports said explosions had occurred on the two oil tankers, apparently as a result of attacks.
Details about the incidents are still sketchy, but the ships are known to have sent distress signals to nearby ports and vessels.
While the US Navy claimed it had been assisting the tankers, the Iranian rescue vessel was first to reach them and rescue the crew, who had plunged into and were floating on the sea to avoid the fire.
The MT Front Altair had been loaded at a port in the Gulf of Oman with a petroleum product known as naptha, and was on its way to the Far East. Its crew of 23 is safe after being evacuated by the nearby Hyundai Dubai vessel.
Front Altair was loaded from Qatar with the flage of Marshal Islands and Kokuka Courageous was loaded from Saudi Arabia with a Panama flag.
Meanwhile, BSM Ship Management says its crew of 21 aboard the Kokuka Courageous carrying methanol has also been rescued in the Gulf of Oman by a nearby Iranian vessel after what it described as an “incident on board which resulted in damage to the ship’s hull starboard side”.
The Arabic-language al-Mayadeen reported that Front Altair oil tankers was fully drowned in the Sea of Oman after the incident.
Japan’s Trade Ministry said that the two oil tankers were reportedly attacked near the Strait of Hormuz which is located between the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman carried “Japan-related cargo”.
Meantime, an informed source in the Iranian Armed Forces said that Iranian Army sent several vessels and helicopters along with rescue teams to the damaged oil tankers upon their request for help.
After the incident, Brent oil crude jumped as much as 4.5% and was trading at $61.80 a barrel at 11:51 a.m. in Dubai. Stocks in Saudi Arabia, Dubai and Abu Dhabi were all down more than 1%.