According to a Norwegian insurer’s report, the attacks on two Saudi ships, a UAE ship and a Norwegian ship last Sunday, were “highly likely” to have been orchestrated by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards (IRGC), who report directly to the theocratic leaders who run Iran.
On April 8, President Trump released a statement naming the IRGC as a terrorist organization, asserting:
Today, I am formally announcing my Administration’s plan to designate Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), including its Qods Force, as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) under Section 219 of the Immigration and Nationality Act. This unprecedented step, led by the Department of State, recognizes the reality that Iran is not only a State Sponsor of Terrorism, but that the IRGC actively participates in, finances, and promotes terrorism as a tool of statecraft. The IRGC is the Iranian government’s primary means of directing and implementing its global terrorist campaign.
According to Reuters, “A confidential assessment issued this week by the Norwegian Shipowners’ Mutual War Risks Insurance Association (DNK) concluded that the attack was likely to have been carried out by a surface vessel operating close by that despatched underwater drones carrying 30-50 kg (65-110 lb) of high-grade explosives to detonate on impact.”
DNK named the IRGC as the instigator based on the IRGC recently threatening military force and likely to use “asymmetric measures with plausible deniability”; the IRGC buttressing the Houthis in Yemen with surface drone boats carrying explosives that could use GPS navigational positions for accuracy, and shrapnel found on the Norwegian tanker similar to shrapnel from drone boats used by the Houthis.
Reuters added, “According to DNK, it was highly likely that the attacks had been intended to send a message to the United States and its allies that Iran did not need to block the Strait to disrupt freedom of navigation in the region.”
In a letter to the U.N. Security Council, the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Norway said the attacks were purposeful, adding, “The attacks damaged the hulls of at least three of the vessels, threatened the safety and lives of those on board, and could have led to an environmental disaster.”
The DNK report said the vessels were damaged between six and 10 nautical miles off Fujairah, near the Strait of Hormuz, which Iran has threatened to block.
In late April, MarketWatch explained the significance of the Straits of Hormuz:
At its narrowest point, the waterway is only 21 miles wide, and the width of the shipping lane in either direction is just 2 miles, separated by a two-mile buffer zone. Oil tankers carrying crude from ports on the Persian Gulf must pass through the strait. Around 18.5 million barrels a day of crude and refined products moved through it in 2016, nearly a third of all seaborne-traded oil and almost 20% of all oil produced globally, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. That makes the Strait of Hormuz the world’s most sensitive oil transportation choke point.
Although the U.S. Fifth Fleet, based in Bahrain, would make if hard for Iran to close the Straits, Helima Croft, global head of commodity strategy at RBC Capital Markets, noted, “they could once again engage in provocative military maneuvers—such as having their speedboats harass U.S. vessels.” Rockford Weitz, professor of practice and director of the Fletcher maritime studies program at Tufts University, warned Marketwatch that Iran could mine the waterway or otherwise threaten traffic through the strait.