The situation in the Middle East is furiously escalating with each passing day.
While today’s news of Israeli financial support for Syrian insurgents came out of left field, our earlier assessment following the report of “turmoiling” Syrian rebels in the aftermath of the Qatar crisis still stands, namely that “the next major regional conflict appears set to be between Saudi Arabia and Iran. All it needs is a catalyst.”
That catalyst nearly presented itself overnight, when the Saudi information ministry said the Saudi Royal Navy foiled an attempted terrorist attack on a major offshore oilfield in the Arabian Gulf on June 16, when it captured three members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps from a boat as it approached the kingdom’s offshore Marjan oilfield. The Saudi Center for International Communications added that the boat carried explosives, and the Iranians aboard “intended to carry out terrorist act in Saudi territorial waters.”
Quoting an “official source”, the Saudi SPA news agency said that just after midnight on June 16, 2017, three boats bearing flags in white and red flags rushed to the Marjan offshore oil field off the Eastern Province. The navy fired warning shots but were these were ignored by the assault boats. It said one of the boats was subsequently seized and found to be “carrying weapons for a sabotage target.” The other two boats escaped.
“This was one of three vessels which were intercepted by Saudi forces. It was captured with the three men on board, the other two escaped,” a statement from the ministry’s center for international communications said.
“The three captured members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard are now being questioned by Saudi authorities,” it said, citing a Saudi official. The vessel was carrying explosives and intended to conduct a “terrorist act” in Saudi territorial waters, it said.
According to Reuters, on Saturday Iran’s Tasnim news agency said that Saudi border guards had opened fire on an Iranian fishing boat in the Gulf on Friday, killing a fisherman. It said the boat was one of two Iranian boats fishing in the Gulf that had been pushed off course by waves.
The alleged attempt to carry out a terrorist attack on Saudi oil facilities takes place as tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia have steadily deteriorated, and follow a pari of suicide bombings and shootings in Tehran killed which killed 17 people in Tehran in the first week of June. Iran repeated accusations that Saudi Arabia funds Sunni Islamist militants, including Islamic State.
It the Saudi account of events is accurate, and if Iran is indeed preparing to take out Saudi oil infrastructure in retaliation or otherwise, the simmering cold war between Saudi Arabia and Iran is about to get very hot.