Middle East analysts see Iran’s fingerprints on tanker attacks — but slim chance of war

  • The U.S. conclusion that Iran orchestrated attacks on two tankers in the Gulf of Oman aligns with the view among several analysts.
  • Despite the Trump administration’s vow to respond to Iran with “unrelenting force,” analysts believe war remains unlikely.
  • Yet some analysts say the Trump administration’s hard-line approach is making it more difficult to deescalate the situation.

The attacks on a pair of tankers in the Gulf of Oman are likely the work of Iran, according to several analysts.

The view among some Middle East watchers aligns with the conclusion presented by the Trump administration, which on Thursdayblamed Iran for the suspected strikes.

“This assessment is based on intelligence, the weapons used, the level of expertise needed to execute the operation, recent similar Iranian attacks on shipping and the fact that no proxy group operating in the area has the resources and proficiency to act with such a high degree of sophistication,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Thursday.

The determination marks the latest escalation between the Iranian leadership in Tehran and the Trump administration, which has sanctioned Iran and vowed to respond to attacks against U.S. interests and allies with “unrelenting force.”

Despite those vows, few analysts think Thursday’s incidents put the U.S. and Iran on a glide path to war — though some warn the adversaries could find themselves hurtling toward conflict.

“From the Iranian government standpoint, the U.S. sanctions are designed to cause there economy to collapse and to elicit regime change,” Helima Croft, global head of commodity strategy at RBC Capital Markets, told CNBC’s “Power Lunch” on Thursday.

“Now we say we don’t want a war, but there are actors in Iran — I would say in the Revolutionary Guard — who are willing to push the region into the brink of one in order to get the United States and our regional allies to reconsider the current course of action.”

Overnight Thursday, explosions rocked a pair of tankers transiting the Gulf of Oman off the coast of Iran, leaving one in flames and both adrift. The incident came just one month after four tankers were sabotaged in the port of Fujairah in the United Arab Emirates.

The attacks last month followed the Trump administration’s decision to tighten sanctions on Iran in a bid to cut its oil exports to zero. President Donald Trump restored the sanctions last year after unilaterally withdrawing the U.S. from a 2015 nuclear accord between Iran and world powers.

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif on Thursday tweeted, “Suspicious doesn’t begin to describe what likely transpired this morning.” He noted that Iran was holding talks with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe when the attacks on the vessels, both with links to Japan, occurred.


At least some analysts believe their is some credibility to Iran’s denials.

“It doesn’t really benefit Iran to mess up the transiting of the Strait of Hormuz and the oil flows … because they’re going to alienate whatever supporters they had out there in the European Union, Asian customers that have been trying to work with Iran,” John Kilduff, founding partner at energy hedge fund Again Capital, told CNBC’s “Squawk Box.”

“To the extent you have forces out there that want to topple the Iranian regime, or actors, it benefits them,” he said. “It gets this game on. It gets the U.S. potentially to such a state of ire that we attack — and it gets the Saudis what they want, which is an attack on Iran.”

-source: cbnc