Even as global community makes effort to free up the British-flagged tanker seized by Iran, Tehran on Monday made stunning claims that may intensify the tension in the Gulf region. According to multiple media reports, Iran has claimed that it ‘dismantled a CIA ring.’ Further, Iran has claimed that 17 people were arrested and some were sentenced to death. According to Iran’s semi-official news agency Fars, “the Iranian intelligence and security forces on Monday released more details about 17 CIA spies captured last year, saying that they had all received interrogation techniques and were tasked with spying on the country's sensitive centers.” The report also added that, “the director-general of the intelligence ministry's counterespionage department said in a press conference in Tehran on Monday that the detained spies had been trained by the CIA and were captured inside the country.”
Mysterious attacks on oil tankers near the strategic Strait of Hormuz show how one of the world's crucial chokepoints for global energy supplies can be easily targeted, 30 years after the US 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.
The so-called "Tanker War" involved American naval ships escorting reflagged Kuwaiti oil tankers through the Persian Gulf and the strait after Iranian mines damaged vessels in the region. It culminated in a one-day naval battle between Washington and Tehran, and also saw America accidentally shoot down an Iranian passenger jet, killing 290 people.
US estimates suggest Iran attacked over 160 ships in the late 1980s confrontation. "We need to remember that some 30% of the world's crude oil passes through the straits," said Paolo d'Amico, the chairman of the oil tanker association INTERTANKO.
"If the waters are becoming unsafe, the supply to the entire Western world could be at risk." So far, six oil tankers have been damaged in suspected limpet mine attacks, explosives that can be magnetically stuck to the side of a ship.
The first attack happened May 12 off the coast of the Emirati port city of Fujairah and targeted four tankers. An apparent attack damaged two other tankers. The US has blamed Iran for both incidents, offering a video on Friday it said showed Iranian Revolutionary Guard forces spirit away one mine stuck to a tanker that didn't explode in the assault.
The spy claims come at a time when the Iranian authorities have seized a British-flagged ship. The crew also includes 18 Indians.