View Full Version : Drama in the Persian Gulf (Tehran gets uppity)

06-15-2019, 01:09 AM
Considering what this is doing to the price per barrel of gasoline, and the potential plot twists where this could wind up down the road, a separate thread is warranted.

The US military on Friday released a video it said shows Iran's Revolutionary Guards removing an unexploded mine from one of the oil tankers targeted in the Gulf of Oman. Tehran denied involvement, accusing the US of waging an "Iranophobic campaign".


Shortly after the crews of the two tankers attacked this week in the Gulf of Oman evacuated their stricken vessels, the ships that rescued them were surrounded by Iranian military boats and told to transfer the mariners into their custody, according to declassified U.S. intelligence reports obtained on Friday by CBS News.

One of the civilian rescue ships eventually complied with the Iranian military's request. The other did not. The new details help to paint a picture of what happened Thursday in the Gulf, near the vital shipping channel of the Strait of Hormuz, through which about a third of the world's oil supply passes.

The Japanese owner of a tanker attacked in the Gulf of Oman claimed Friday that it was struck by a flying projectile, contradicting reports by U.S. officials and the military on the source of the blast.

"We received reports that something flew towards the ship," said Yutaka Katada, president of Kokaku Sangyo Co. at a press conference. "The place where the projectile landed was significantly higher than the water level, so we are absolutely sure that this wasn’t a torpedo. I do not think there was a time bomb or an object attached to the side of the ship."


(Bloomberg) -- A group of hackers that shut down a Saudi Arabian oil and natural gas facility in 2017 is now targeting electric utilities, according to the cybersecurity company Dragos Inc.

The group, Xenotime, has been probing utilities in the U.S. and Asia-Pacific regions since late 2018, Hanover, Maryland-based Dragos said in a blog post Friday. They’ve focused mostly on electronic control systems that manage the operations at industrial sites, Dragos said.

U.S. officials have long warned grids are acutely vulnerable to cyber attacks. Disrupting a region’s electrical infrastructure could cause widespread chaos, triggering blackouts and crippling financial markets, transportation systems and more.

Dragos has shied away from naming any country that might be behind Xenotime's attacks. Despite initial speculation that Iran was responsible for the Triton attack on Saudi Arabia, security firm FireEye in 2018 pointed to forensic links between the Petro Rabigh attack and a Moscow research institute, the Central Scientific Research Institute of Chemistry and Mechanics. If Xenotime is in fact a Russian or Russia-sponsored group, they would be far from the only Russian hackers to target the grid. The Russian hacker group known as Sandworm is believed to be responsible for attacks on Ukrainian electric utilities in 2015 and 2016 that cut power to hundreds of thousands of people, the only blackouts confirmed to have been triggered by hackers. And last year the Department of Homeland Security warned that a Russian group known as Palmetto Fusion or Dragonfly 2.0 had gained access to the actual control systems of American power utilities, bringing them much closer to causing a blackout than Xenotime has gotten thus far.


Stay tuned. This sounds like it's going to get stupid.

06-15-2019, 01:15 AM
Historical backgrounder for those too young to remember the First Act.

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Mysterious attacks on oil tankers near the strategic Strait of Hormuz this week show how one of the world’s crucial chokepoints for global energy supplies can be easily targeted, 30 years after the U.S. Navy and Iran were entangled in a similarly shadowy conflict called the “Tanker War.” While the current tensions are nowhere near the damage done then, it underscores how dangerous the situation is and how explosive it can become.


06-15-2019, 01:19 AM
Someone's been reading up on Kraska's deniability scenario (PDF) (https://www.act.nato.int/images/stories/events/2010/gc/ws_mar_us_lost_navalwar.pdf) and basic maskirovka.

“The Department of Defense will be reluctant to retaliate until they are certain what happened and who fired on whom, and why,” he said.

The U.S. has been beefing up naval and air power, capable of striking Iranian forces in the Persian Gulf over the last month after the White House said it had information about possible future attacks against American interests. The Pentagon would not say Thursday whether there were plans to speed the buildup.

Nader and Cancian believe it’s possible Iranian-funded Houthi rebels, who are mired in a civil war in Yemen, may be to blame. If that’s the case, “the U.S. will not want to get involved in a shooting war over Yemen,” Cancian said.

It will likely take days, weeks or even months for the military to go through the forensics needed to find out exactly who is behind the attack. But if it is determined to be Iran, Cancian believes the U.S. forces in the area will make quick work of Iran’s navy. “The U.S. has assets designed to take on Russia and China. Iran’s ships are very exposed. I’d expect the U.S. would be able to sink Iran’s navy in about two days.”


06-15-2019, 10:17 AM
The Independent has the DoD video, not great quality and without anything in support e.g. mapping showing the boat's onward journey.

06-15-2019, 10:22 AM
Previous post would not accept editing. Bellingcat adds in the NYT a commentary:https://www.nytimes.com/2019/06/14/opinion/iran-tanker-attacks.html

06-19-2019, 09:17 AM
I doubt many, indeed any readers of the Forum will need this, but it may help others understand the risks and how to mitigate them. Plus there are multiple links:https://theconversation.com/gulf-of-oman-attacks-how-merchant-ships-can-keep-safe-in-dangerous-waters-118952? (https://theconversation.com/gulf-of-oman-attacks-how-merchant-ships-can-keep-safe-in-dangerous-waters-118952?utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Latest%20from%20The%20Conversation%20 for%20June%2019%202019%20-%201338412540&utm_content=Latest%20from%20The%20Conversation%20f or%20June%2019%202019%20-%201338412540+CID_9f298fdc01eb9298f3eb723ff49e5cde&utm_source=campaign_monitor_uk&utm_term=Gulf%20of%20Oman%20attacks%20how%20mercha nt%20ships%20can%20keep%20safe%20in%20dangerous%20 waters)

06-21-2019, 07:08 PM
A British blogger's commentary that ends with:
This remains a complex and fast moving situation, and more events will surely follow. But, for now, it is worth trying to capture some of the bigger issues as it moves along, and in time consider the lessons and impacts more broadly. Whatever else happens, the hope must be that this ends peacefully and not with an escalation into an ever more challenging proxy war, where the new threshold of gradually accepted use of low level violence suddenly leads to an accidental escalation of something significantly more widespread by accident.

An IISS commentary by an ex-diplomat that ends - nearly - with:
Whatever the strategy of either side, it is possible that with an increased amount of tension, rhetoric and military personnel in the region a miscalculation trips both sides into uncontrolled escalation. That is a legitimate concern that surfaced with the downing of the drone. But even in the event of miscalculation, the escalation need not be automatic.

06-23-2019, 07:26 PM
The US may have withheld a physical military response to Iran shooting down a drone, but it might not have shown similar restraint with a digital campaign. Washington Post sources say the President greenlit a long-in-the-making cyberattack that took down Iranian missile control computers on the night of June 20th. The exact impact of the Cyber Command operation isn't clear, but it was described as "crippling" -- Iran couldn't easily recover, one tipster said.


06-24-2019, 04:12 PM
Tehran And Its Iraqi Allies Respond Asymmetrically To Trump Admin’s Iran Policy (http://musingsoniraq.blogspot.com/2019/06/tehran-and-its-iraqi-allies-respond.html)

06-25-2019, 08:59 PM
A French newspaper article by a Canadian journalist familiar with the region; useful as gives a comprehensive overview of the region and more. After the recent White House announcement this is topical:
Yet, countries under sanctions rarely concede to ‘outside interference’, ‘imperialist pressure’ or ‘economic terrorism’. As an instrument of national power, the imposition of sanctions is a blunt tool that achieves little other than privation and enmity.

(Later) While the ‘maximum pressure’ campaign is significantly damaging the economy and causing suffering among ordinary Iranians, it has not altered Iran’s campaign of ‘maximum resistance’ — if anything, it has strengthened Iranian resolve to resist.

06-28-2019, 04:05 PM
An IISS commentary that opens with:
Iran has been engaged in a steady and escalating series of hostile acts in recent months. As John Raine explains, the principal messages behind them are ones of defiance and capability.

07-01-2019, 09:25 PM
The rather pessimistic title comes from a 'Foreign Affairs' article (commended via Twitter and only the opening is free to view) and the article opens with:
With each passing day, the United States and Iran draw each other deeper into conflict. So far, they have stopped short of war. But the likelihood of an armed conflict increases with every additional provocation, whether it is an attack on a civilian tanker ship or another round of sanctions.
Link:https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/iran/2019-06-28/us-and-iran-are-marching-toward-war? (https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/iran/2019-06-28/us-and-iran-are-marching-toward-war?utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter_cta&utm_campaign=cta_share_buttons)

Just who is going to join in? There is this rather unusual statement from Mossad:
Israel and U.S.-aligned Arab countries have a unique chance to forge a regional peace deal given their shared worries about Iran, the chief of Israel’s Mossad spy service said on Monday.

Paul Rogers explains the potential for the UK being involved, alongside Oman and Qatar. He also notes this rather large movement of USAF explosives to a munitions depot in the UK, near to a RAF base used - at times - by USAF strategic bombers:
Also relevant is one of the largest US Air Force munitions stockpile sites in Europe at RAF Welford, 35 km southeast of Fairford, in Berkshire. It may just be a coincidence that last month a US Air Force unit moved a substantial quantity of munitions (https://www.usafe.af.mil/News/Article-Display/Article/1865148/501st-combat-support-wing-orchestrates-uks-largest-munitions-supply-movement-of/) from the United States through a port of entry, reported to be Newport in South Wales, to Welford. In this five-day operation, the largest of its kind for a decade, 71 trucks moved 121 containers with 450,000 lb (204,000 kg) net explosive weight.

May be just a routine matter that move. I think not.

07-02-2019, 07:19 PM
Does this strange story, originally in a Kuwaiti paper and now on National Interest's website have an effect on the current situation?

It starts with:
Iranian Air Force commander Brigadier General Farzad Ismaili, who had been in office since 2010, has been fired by Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei after he kept secret that Israeli Air Force (IAF) F-35 stealth fighters had violated Iran’s airspace, the Kuwaiti daily Al Jarida reported on Saturday. The newspaper emphasized that it was the original media source that exposed the Israeli raids, which had taken place in March 2018.

The most puzzling sentence is this, with my bold:
According to Al Jarida, Iranian intelligence received top secret information that the Israeli fighter planes even managed to photograph Iran’s underground bases. Khamenei, who received this information, now suspects a cooperation between Russia and Israel, and that the Russians gave Israel the secret code of the Russian radar in Iran – according to the Kuwaiti newspaper.

07-08-2019, 02:36 PM
A pessimistic story which concludes:
The bottom line: It’d be hell on earth

07-21-2019, 01:43 PM
Two articles I caught today. A 'Long Read' in the NYRB by two SME and the title almost gives away their view:wry: 'Iran: The Case Against War'. Curiously they end with:
At this point, even senior Israeli officials—who have backed the United States’ aggressive courtship of Saudi Arabia and confrontation with Iran—have become concerned about American bellicosity and myopia, and are loath to be seen as encouraging a US–Iran military confrontation.7 (https://www.nybooks.com/articles/2019/08/15/iran-case-against-war/#fn-7) The Israelis have no doubt started to consider the long-term regional impact of a war between the US and Iran. Their change of heart should be a warning that US policy is spinning out of control.

Then a shorter, hostile interpretation of the British role, starting with the seizure of an Iranian tanker off Gibraltar and now a likely riposte with a UK flagged tanker being sized in the Gulf. A few here have noted the public silence of the EU after the Gibraltar seizure by the EU, ostensibly the tanker breached EU sanctions.