The news that two tanker ships were attacked in the Gulf of Oman last week shocked the world. Oil prices immediately spiked 4% in the aftermath of the attacks, as the possibility of further attacks on commercial shipping in that area could have drastic effects on the ability of oil producers to get their products to market. Nearly 20% of world oil production is shipped through the Strait of Hormuz. But while President Trump was quick to blame Iran for the attacks, that’s highly unlikely to be the case.
One of the ships that was attacked was a Japanese-owned ship, while the other one was carrying a load of cargo to Japan. It just so happened that the Japanese Prime Minister was visiting Tehran at the time, in an attempt to engage in negotiations to defuse rising tensions between the US and Iran. As any investigator knows, the first question to ask is: cui bono?
Obviously Iran wouldn’t benefit from Japanese ships being attacked while the Japanese Prime Minister is in town. And the fact that these ships appear to have been targeted for their Japanese connections makes it clear that whoever launched this attack was trying to sabotage Prime Minister Abe’s efforts. That all but rules out the Iranian government as the attacker.
Which countries then would want to see heightened tensions between the US and Iran? Certain elements of the US government would love to see the US go to war with Iran, but it’s unlikely that US forces were involved. Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Israel also would love to see Iran’s influence checked by the US, so they or contractors they hired are possible culprits.
We may never get absolute clarity about who was behind these attacks, and the fact that they occurred early in the morning could mean that combat swimmers used the cover of darkness to attach explosives to the hulls, meaning just about anyone could have carried out these attacks. It’s important, though, that cool and calm reasoning prevail, rather than a rush to action. The last thing anyone wants to see is a war between the US and Iran, as neither country would win in such a situation.