Iran nuke standoff heats up with new IAEA, ship attack disputes

Source: Iran nuke standoff heats up with new IAEA, ship attack disputes – Middle East – Jerusalem Post

“We believe that this is an attack organized by one or more states, since two other Iranian flagged [very large] tankers were similarly attacked in the same approximate area.”

BY YONAH JEREMY BOB, TZVI JOFFRE
 NOVEMBER 7, 2019 08:23
Damage is seen on Iranian-owned Sabiti oil tanker sailing in the Red Sea, Oct. 2019

The Iranian nuclear standoff continued to heat-up on Thursday with a special IAEA meeting called to discuss two new Iranian violations of the 2015 nuclear deal and a letter from Iran complaining that not one, but three of its oil tankers have been attacked in the Red Sea.

The special IAEA meeting comes after an IAEA official was temporarily detained and her travel documents seized by the Islamic republic in a shocking violation of international protocol for treatment of its inspectors.

Tehran said that it had concrete suspicions regarding the IAEA official, though it eventually released her.

It was unclear if Iran had apologized for the incident, but the IAEA meeting was expected to issue a sharper rebuke than usual.

In addition, the IAEA special meeting is supposed to address Iran’s failure to explain the discovery of nuclear materials at the Turquzabad site which the Mossad discovered in 2018 and which the IAEA confirmed in February, though it has been slow in discussing the issue publicly.

Also on Thursday, Iran warned that commercial shipping routes in the Red Sea are unsafe and that three of its tankers have been attacked off the coast of Saudi Arabia in the past six months, according to The Wall Street Journal.

The Islamic Republic has only publicly announced one attack on an Iranian tanker in the Red Sea, when they claimed that the Sabiti tanker was hit by two missiles.

Iranian MP Abolfazl Hassanbeigi blamed Israel, the United States and Saudi Arabia for the attack on the Sabiti tanker. None of those countries admitted to the attack, but there were indications from some officials that some combination of the countries had a roll in it to respond to Iranian attacks on US-allies tankers.

“We believe that this is an attack organized by one or more states, since two other Iranian flagged [very large] tankers were similarly attacked in the same approximate area” and with “ similar damages to the ships,” wrote Iran in a letter to the International Maritime Organization about the attacks.

“A major concern in this respect is that the organized and directed pattern of these attacks within a short time and similar locations have rendered the Red Sea as an unsafe route for ships to adopt for their voyages,” added the letter.

The other two Iranian tankers attacked were the Happiness 1 in April and the Helm in August, according to the letter. The first attack occurred before the US ended waivers from sanctions against Iran in May as well as before multiple Saudi and Emirati tankers were targeted by acts of sabotage largely blamed on Iran, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Since the first attack occurred prior to May, the narrative is less clear about how or why the US would have been involved, though it is possible that other complexities could have led to the attack by the countries aligned against Iran or that there was some other cause, such as piracy or even a technical malfunction which Iran is hiding.

It was unclear why Iran was choosing to reveal the other attacks now having kept them quiet.

Possibilities could include Iran has already been embarrassed by the public attack on one of its tankers so there was no longer a reason to try to keep the other incidents quiet or an attempt to rally moral support for its cause by claiming that its attacks on others’ tankers were more of a response than a newly-initiated round of conflict.

Reuters contributed to this report.

 

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