The plight of a “mystery” UAE tanker that’s gone missing in the Persian Gulf now threatens to again send tensions with Iran soaring. Its location transmission signal was turned off Sunday as it drifted toward Iranian waters and it hasn’t been heard from since, with even United Arab Emirates officials staying silent about it. The AP reports:
Tracking data shows an oil tanker based in the United Arab Emirates traveling through the Strait of Hormuz drifted off into Iranian waters and stopped transmitting its location over two days ago, raising concerns Tuesday about its status amid heightened tensions between Iran and the U.S.
The report details that the Riah, a 58-meter oil tanker which operates frequently in the region, switched off its transponder for the first time in three months after 11pm on Saturday, based on tracking data.
As of Monday “red flags” were raised as US officials began inquiring of the Riah’s status. CNN’s Pentagon correspondent Barbarra Starr had this to say based on intelligence sources: “US intel increasingly believes UAE tanker MT RIAH forced into Iranian waters over the weekend by
#IRGC naval forces. UAE isn’t talking.”
However, this could be another case of hawkish US intelligence and defense officials hyping a false threat. Starr continued based on her source: “Some Gulf sources say ship simply broke down/towed by Iran. US says though no contact with crew. Last location Qesham Island.”
#UPDATE: This is the last known position of the UAE (Panama flagged) oil products tanker in Iranian waters near Iran’s Qeshm island 44 hours ago. CNN’s @barbarastarrcnn reports US intel belives IRGC Navy may have forced the vessel into Iranian waters, no contact with crew. pic.twitter.com/GRHTt6bzi9
— ELINT News (@ELINTNews) July 15, 2019
Following the UK’s controversial and aggressive move to seize a tanker carrying 2 million barrels of Iranian oil of Gibraltar earlier this month, Tehran’s military has threatened to in turn intercept UK vessels.
This also comes after repeat pledges over the past year by Iran’s leaders following a US sanctions campaign that if Iran is blocked from exporting its oil out of the gulf then no country would be able to traverse the vital oil shipping lanes either.