Thursday, June 13, 2019

Tit-for-Tat Escalation in the Gulf of Hormuz


      All appeared to have been targeted at their rear, an area that maritime experts say is the most vulnerable part of a vessel. It is the hardest area to cover by radar, and the most difficult to see with the naked eye.
          An attack on those vessels from that angle would suggest that the culprit knew what they were doing, and that the damage was precisely what they intended. Holes big enough to take on water but not large enough to sink the ships.
            In other words, a momentarily painful message, but not a declaration of war.
              One weapons expert who reviewed images of some of the damage thinks the holes may have been caused by limpet mines, which are used at or below the water line, easily stuck to the hull by a diver or attacker in a small boat, and detonated by a timer.
                He based his analysis on the size of the hole, consistent with a 5kg charge (about the amount of explosives in a Limpet mine) and the lack of scorching or burning a rocket or missile might leave.
                  He described it as a sophisticated operation, with the culprit getting clean away, a professional job.
                    A picture emerges of well-trained operatives moving across the water under cover of darkness, placing mines on selected ships over a wide area. If Limpet mines can be blamed, they would have been timed to go off within a few hours of each other in the morning, with no sight nor sound of attacker ever detected.
                     It is quite possible no one on board would have heard the explosions and the first sign of trouble could well have been water inside the ship, as indicated in the calls ashore.
                  The mysterious fires occurred one day after the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and Norway – whose ships were attacked near the Fujairah port on May 12, 2019 – submitted an initial report to the United Nations Security Council on June 6. The document called the tanker attack “sophisticated and coordinated,” and said it was apparently carried out by a “state actor” with “significant operational capacity.” The report – which the United States and France also helped prepare – did not specify the name of the state responsible. Although the UAE and Saudi Arabia initially blamed Iran for the attack, Iran was not mentioned in the document, possibly as part of the effort to calm the winds and enable diplomatic activity to allay U.S.-Iranian tension and perhaps even renew the negotiations between them. At the same time, the Saudi ambassador to the United Nations, Abdallah al-Mouallimi, declared, “We believe that the responsibility for this action lies on the shoulders of Iran. We have no hesitation making this statement.”
                    The explosions come as Shinzo Abe, Japan's prime minister, visited Iran this week for high-stakes negotiations with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei over trade as well as U.S.-Iran relations.
                           On Thursday Bernhard Schulte Ship management said tanker Kokuka Courageous was damaged in a “suspected attack” that breached the hull above the water line while on passage from Saudi Arabia to Singapore.
                             “The ship is safely afloat,” it said in a statement.
                               Taiwan’s CPC said tanker Front Altair, carrying 75,000 tonnes of Naptha was “suspected of being hit by a torpedo” around 0400 GMT. The vessel, owned by Norway’s Frontline, had loaded naphtha, a petrochemical feedstock, from Ruwais in the UAE, according to trade sources and shipping date on Refinitiv Eikon.
                                 Frontline said its vessel was on fire in the Gulf of Oman.
                                   Refinitiv Eikon ship tracking data showed the Front Altair, an Aframax vessel, was in waters between Oman and Iran, carrying its naphtha cargo for delivery in Taiwan this month.
                                     The sources said crews from both vessels, which they had said had been struck in international waters, had been safely evacuated.
                                I am reminded of David P. Goldman's warning in his book, Why Civilizations Die (and Islam is Dying Too). Goldman specifically noted that the declining birthrates in Iran would result in that nation's government seeing itself backed up against a wall demographically and militarily. That is, after a certain point, its population of young men would begin to decline, which would limit its military options, and could encourage it to strike out while the striking was good.

                                     There is also the fact that there are elements within Iran, Saudi Arabia, and even our own government, that would probably welcome a war.

                                      Iran sees itself as a regional power; and, even if most Americans don't actually believe their own religion, there are Iranian leaders that probably take Islamic prophecy seriously, and may want to trigger a war (the war) that would precede the appearance of the Mahdi. Joel Richardson notes in his book, AntiChrist--Islam's Awaited Messiah that the Mahdi (a messianic figure in Islam) will lead a Caliphate, and lead an army waving black flags, to attack all non-believers, including Israel. According to Islamic tradition, this army will originate from the direction of Khorasan (Iran). The appearance of this army is supposed to signal the imminent appearance of the Mahdi. (See also my post, "Responding to 'Myths of Muslim Antichrist'").

                                     For Saudi Arabia, it would mean the opportunity to get rid of or seriously weaken their primary rival who has been attacking the country via proxies for many years, and secure Saudi control over the Arabian Sea. It would also boost the price of oil, allowing more money to flow into the coffers of the Gulf States.

                                     As for the United States, "Progressives" on both sides of the aisle would like a war because it would undermine Trump's popularity, it would cause oil prices to spike (thus benefiting their alternate energy schemes), and would further enlarge the power of the state.

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