UAE: 'Sophisticated' tanker attacks likely work of state actor

This Emirati National Media Council handout shows the UAE-flagged tanker A. Michel one of the four ships damaged in alleged May 2019

Saudi Arabia has accused Iran of being responsible for a co-ordinated attack on four oil tankers last month after a commission of inquiry said that it was probably carried out by "a state actor".

They believe it was the work of several teams of operatives, which coordinated the timed detonation of all four explosive charges within less than an hour.

US National Security Adviser John Bolton has said that Iran was "almost certainly" behind the attacks.

The four tankers were attacked using "naval mines nearly certainly from Iran", he said.

Anyway, such a report rejects the U.S. accusation against Iran, indicating direct liability and with that reason increased its military force units in the Middle East.

United Nations representatives of Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Norway presented the report to the Security Council Thursday.

While they stressed that their investigation is still in the preliminary stage and did not jointly point a finger at any country in their statement, Saudi Arabian U.N. Ambassador Abdallah al-Mouallimi said there was a "preponderance of evidence" pointing in one direction. The US has sent warships and bombers to the region as part of its response.

UAE Permanent Representative to the United Nations Lana Nusseibeh, and the Norwegian and Saudi Arabian representatives briefed reporters in NY.

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A report on the May 12 attack near the Emirati coast that damaged four oil tankers didn't name a nation, but Iran is presumed to be the "actor".

Preliminary findings from the UAE-led investigation, which occurred in their territory east of the Fujairah emirate close to the pivotal Strait of Hormuz, are reported to have embodied a "high degree of sophistication".

In a press statement, the countries said that the attacks required trained divers, explosive charges placed under the waterline, near the engines, so as to not sink the ships or detonate their cargoes, which indicated a knowledge of the design of the targeted ships.

The investigation, which assessed the damage to the four vessels and conducted a chemical analysis of the debris, found it was "highly likely" that limpet mines were used in the attack.

Earlier, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo claimed that Iran could quite possibly be behind the attacks although no one has claimed responsibility for the sabotage. Speaking with journalists, Vladimir Safronkov, a Russian ambassador to the United Nations, said that "we should not rush to conclusions" and "the investigations will continue".

Iran has rejected accusations that it was behind the sabotage and diplomats said there was no mention of Iran's possible role during the briefing by the UAE.

Tensions increased last month when Washington ended exemptions from sanctions for countries still buying oil from Iran.

Meanwhile, citing intelligence suggesting a heightened threat to US personnel and interests in Syria and Iraq from Iran or the groups it backs in the region, the White House ordered a USA aircraft carrier strike group and four B-52 bombers to the region.

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