Iran Increases the Threat at the Strait of Hormuz

by | Jun 14, 2019 |

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New intelligence from the U.S. Central Command confirms the earlier reports that Iran was indeed responsible for the attacks on two oil tankers underway on the Gulf of Oman. A video that has just been released showing IRGC Navy personnel removing an unexploded limpet bomb from the hull of one of the tankers attacked on Thursday.

So now it is not just conjecture on the part of most of us who do not have access to military intelligence. The analysis is now based on evidence that has been released to the public and reveals Iran’s unequivocal involvement in these attacks.

According to my sources, and based on other available information, the magnetic limpet mines that caused the fires on the two tankers were likely placed by hand on the hulls of the two targeted vessels, while they were underway, by Iranians in small boats.  

The attacks took place in daylight hours, and so the explanation of the logistics has changed considerably. The initial distress calls were heard at approximately 0700 local time, earlier than previously reported, but well within daylight hours. Both vessels were outward bound, just east the Strait of Hormuz in the Gulf of Oman, and only 24 miles from the nearest IRGC base, where small patrol and attack boats are stationed. According to reports from overhead surveillance and observers on the water, there were IRGCN craft in the vicinity of the vessels before, after, and during the attacks. In the past, the IRGC boats have harassed and intimidated passing traffic.

The explosives could have been placed on the ships either the night before under the cover of darkness, or during daylight with the help of a diversion and heavy traffic on the waterway.

On Thursday morning, the vessels were hit “at or below the waterline, in close proximity to the engine room,” according to the International Association of Independent Tanker Owners (Intertanko), which added, “These appeared to be well-planned and coordinated” attacks.

U.S. aircraft observed an IRGC Hendijan class patrol boat and multiple IRGC fast attack craft/fast inshore attack craft (FAC/FIAC) in the vicinity of the M/T Front Altair at the time of attack. This also creates a diversion by placing multiple craft in an already crowded waterway.

According to a Hyundai Merchant Marine official, a vessel in the vicinity that helped to rescue the crew, the ship’s captain said in an official report that he heard three explosions prior to the Front Altair’s distress call. He went outside to the deck and saw that the ship was on fire.

Iranian state television issued video of Front Altair burning from a hull breach on the starboard side of the ship.

What happened to the Kokuka Courageous is less clear, as some witnesses told reporters “it was hit with a flying object. They say something come flying toward them, then there was an explosion, then there was a hole in the vessel. Then some crew witnessed a second shot.”

On the other hand, the Kokuka Courageous is the ship from which witnesses say there was an unexploded limpet mine attached to the hull above the waterline, and from which the video shows the IRGC navy personnel removing it. In fact, the crew reported that they abandoned their ship because they had discovered the unexploded limpet mine on their hull following the initial explosion. 

Late Thursday, the U.S. Central Command released a dark, grainy video and corresponding timeline suggesting that U.S. military assets in the region observed the Iranian vessels approaching the tanker and removing the device. 

Which leads to another, more important issue:  Iran is premeditating a path to war – with the world. And here are the facts:

  1. Iran is now unquestionably the source of the attacks on six tankers from Japan, Saudi Arabia, Norway, and the UAE.  These attacks were premeditated and were a part of a sophisticated operation that was carried out by operators with significant operational capabilities, with all evidence pointing to Iran. Now the Iranian role has been proven.
  2. By way of proof, the U.S. Central Command released both the video and photographs that officials say show the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy removing an unexploded limpet bomb from the hull of the Kokuka Courageous.
  3. Interspersed with Iran’s apparent suggestions that it is open to talks with world leaders, as apparent by their recent visit from Shinzo Abe, they are also threatening the U.S., Israel, Japan, and Europe, as well as certain other Muslim countries who are not in tune with their hard line against the rest of the non-Muslim world. Iran is, for example, currently an active supporter of the Houthis in Yemen, who are in the middle of a bloody civil war; Hamas, which is now actively harassing Israel with fire balloons, massive riots on the Gaza border, and terrorist attacks; and Hezbollah, whose threats against Israel are growing more strident every day.

And on a lower level but non-the-less serious front, the attacks upon strategically chosen tankers that are leaving the Persian Gulf, fully loaded, is a graphic warning of what Iran is ready to do should it not receive what it wants from the rest of the world. Their primary goal is to become a full-fledged nuclear power, which would allow it the ability to threaten the entire globe with nuclear holocaust at a moment’s notice. This would be called nuclear blackmail and it is unacceptable at any level. 

Latest intelligence indicates that Iran has already quadrupled its production of low-enriched uranium, despite its JCPOA pledge to desist. Recently Iran threatened to leave the remaining treaty with Europe altogether if Europe does not come up with an acceptable (to Iran) revision of the existing treaty by July 7. 

U.S. sanctions have severely curtailed opportunities for Iran to trade its excess uranium and heavy water abroad, but Iran seems undeterred and ready to return to its former course, to develop a formidable nuclear arms capability.

As a result of these new threats that have come in the form of tactical attacks on international tankers exiting the Strait of Hormuz, the U.S. is sending a second warship to the vicinity of the part of the Gulf of Oman, where the two merchant vessels that were attacked. The guided-missile destroyer USS Mason (DDG-87) is joining U.S. forces already in the region of the coast of Iran. Our naval forces must ensure that the Strait of Hormuz remain open at all cost.

Iran is playing a game of international Russian-roulette, spinning the magazine with one bullet aimed – at the world. At what point does the bullet aim at the Iranian mullahs who are willfully and purposely leading the world into another bloody war?

Isn’t it time that the free world confronts this monster and stop the madness that the Iranian threat represents? Isn’t it time to do what we should have done during the Obama years when he completely ignored the Green Revolution that could have toppled this murderous regime? So long as Iran holds the world hostage to its evil designs, no part of the world will ever be safe. Enough is clearly enough, and it had better be stopped before it is too late.

Ilana Freedman

Ilana Freedman is a veteran intelligence analyst with more than thirty years in the field. She was trained in Israel, where she lived and worked for sixteen years. After returning to the U.S., she served as CEO of Gerard Group International in Massachusetts, providing major corporations and government agencies with intelligence-led support for their homeland security programs. Her global network of specialists and field assets has provided her with an ongoing resource of critical, real-time intelligence and domain expertise. Today, Ilana is an independent consultant and author of hundreds of articles on terrorism and the geopolitical landscape. She has written four books on Islamic terrorism, and is currently working on a comprehensive book on China - past, present, and future.

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