The mystery of an oil tanker apparently missing in the Arabian Gulf shows just how tense things are in the region at the moment — a tension that has been exacerbated and enhanced by the actions of the regime in Iran.
The Panamanian-registered tanker that used to supply fuel to larger vessels, was last heard from late Saturday night. According to news reports, the vessel was last tracked heading north in waters claimed by Iran. Adding to the unease is the fact that the tanker’s satellite-tracking technology went blank, leaving maritime-monitoring agency unable to know for sure the whereabouts of the ship.
And this is where the mystery takes on a new dimension. It hasn’t been heard from since, and when alarms are raised, Iranian authorities issued a statement that they were helping the crew of vessel in distress and had towed it to port.
Should there be cause for concern? The fact that there was no distress signal from the ship seems to suggest that whatever happened to it did so suddenly or by stealth.
Covert actions, radio silence, a lack of transparency and communications have all the hallmarks of an operation planned with naval precision. Certainly too, the fact that Iran’s hands are all over the attacks on four oil tankers off the eastern coast of the UAE in May and the explosions that struck two tankers in the Arabian Sea in June give reason for concern.
Adding to this chapter is the stated intent of Iran that it would seize a vessel in retaliation for the actions of British Royal Marines based in Gibraltar
When three small Iranian gunboats harry and attempt to divert an Isle of Man registered vessel as it sails in an international passage through the Strait of Hormuz, that is a cause of concern. Were it not for the quick reactions of the Royal Navy warship HMS Montrose that issued a stern order to cease and desist, there is every reason to believe that the vessel British Heritage would now be held by the regime in Tehran for its own nefarious and odious reasons.
Adding to this chapter is the stated intent of Iran that it would seize a vessel in retaliation for the actions of British Royal Marines based in Gibraltar. Two weeks ago, they boarded and seized an Iranian-registered tanker that was attempting to break international sanctions on the regime of Syria’s Bashar Al Assad — Tehran’s regional bedfellow.
This could well be an incident of a ship break down. Or something far more sinister is afoot — that clearly points to Iran.