This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.
Saudi Arabia’s crown prince has directly blamed archrival Iran for attacks on two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman and said his country “won’t hesitate to deal with any threat” against its people or interests.
“The Iranian regime did not respect the Japanese prime minister’s visit to Tehran, and while he was there replied to his efforts by attacking two tankers, one of which was Japanese,” Muhammad bin Salman told the pan-Arab Asharq al-Awsat newspaper in an interview published on June 16.
“We do not want a war in the region…But we won’t hesitate to deal with any threat to our people, our sovereignty, our territorial integrity, and our vital interests,” he said, according to the newspaper.
He added that the incidents require that the international community take a “decisive stand” to counter the threats.
Tensions have risen to new heights after two recent attacks on shipping in the Persian Gulf region — both of which the United States and its Persian Gulf allies, including Saudi Arabia, have blamed on Iran.
U.S. President Donald Trump on June 14 accused Iran of carrying out the most-recent attack, on June 13, against two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman.
The incident occurred during a visit by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to Iran.
The Pentagon has released a grainy video claiming to show patrol boats from Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) removing what appeared to be an unexploded mine from the side of one of the ships after the attack.
The latest incident came a month after attacks on four tankers off the coast of the nearby United Arab Emirates (U.A.E.), an incident Washington and the Saudis also blamed on Iran.
Iran has denied any involvement in the attacks.
On June 16, Tehran summoned the British ambassador after London said it agreed with the United States that Iran attacked the tankers in the June 13 incident.
Britain Calls For De-Escalation
Iran’s IRNA news agency reported that Iranian diplomat Mahmoud Barimani told Ambassador Robert Macaire that Tehran strongly protested Britain’s “blindly and hastily following” the United States in accusing Iran.
But Ambassador Rob Macaire denied in a tweet that he was summoned by the Iranian Foreign Ministry.
“I asked for an urgent meeting with the Foreign Ministry yesterday and it was granted. No ‘summons’. Of course if formally summoned I would always respond, as would all Ambassadors,” Macaire wrote.
British Foreign Minister Jeremy Hunt said on June 16 that Britain was “almost certain” Iran was behind attacks on oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman.
“We have done our own intelligence assessment and the phrase we used is almost certain … We don’t believe anyone else could have done this,” Hunt told a BBC talk show.
Hunt said Britain was calling on “all sides” to de-escalate.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif tweeted that Washington had “immediately jumped to make allegations against Iran without a shred of factual or circumstantial evidence.”
Iran in the past has said it could block the strategic Strait of Hormuz as a countermeasure to any attack by the United States. Such a move would disrupt oil tankers traveling out of the Persian Gulf region and likely lead to a sharp rise in world oil prices.
U.A.E. Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan on June 16 called on world powers “to secure international navigation and access to energy.”
Nevertheless, Nahyan, speaking at a summit in Bulgaria, said his country — a U.S. and Saudi ally also opposed to Iran — called for an easing of tensions in the region.
“We remain hopeful in attaining a broader framework for cooperation with Iran,” he said.