U.S. believes Iran proxies may be behind tanker attacks, official says

WTI and Brent Crude Oil

"Our goal is to respond to the crimes they are committing every day against the Yemeni people".

The Saudi state news agency quoted Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih as saying that Aramco had halted pumping on the East-West pipeline until the damage was evaluated, but that production and exports were continuing without disruption.

According to the Arab kingdom's Saudi Press Agency, one of the ships was on its way to transport oil from the Saudi port of Ras Tanura to the U.S when the incident occurred. He said this reaffirms the need of the global community to confront the activities of groups like the Houthis. Iranian military leaders have periodically threatened to block the Strait of Hormuz to others' oil shipments if their own exports are interrupted. Brent was trading at $71.07 a barrel by 1347 GMT, up 1.20%. Some have said the event is similar to the Gulf of Tonkin incident, when then President Lyndon Johnson used an alleged attack on two USA naval destroyers in Vietnam as a pretext for escalating US involvement in the ongoing Vietnam War.

A team of USA military experts, performing an initial examination of the damage inflicted Sunday on four ships anchored off Fujairah, one of the United Arab Emirates' seven principalities, tentatively concluded that Tehran was responsible, the Associated Press reported on Monday.

Amid escalation of tensions between arch rivals Iran and Saudi Arabia, the incident adds to the rising tensions in the region as Fujairah is close to the strategically crucial waterway Strait of Hormuz. UAE authorities did not say who was behind the attack.

The US official said that each vessel had a five to ten foot hole "near or just below the water line", and the "team's early belief is that the holes were caused by explosive charges". They were not authorized to discuss the results of the investigation and spoke on condition of anonymity. The U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet, which patrols the Mideast and operates from a base in Fujairah, has repeatedly declined to comment.

The assessment, while not conclusive, was the first suggestion by any nation that Iran was responsible and comes after a series of U.S. warnings against aggression by Tehran or its allies and proxies against military or commercial vessels in the region, reports Efe news.

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Washington has increased sanctions on Tehran, saying it wants to reduce Iranian oil exports to zero, after quitting the 2015 nuclear pact between Iran and global powers past year.

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He "warned against plots by ill-wishers to disrupt regional security" and "called for the vigilance of regional states in the face of any adventurism by foreign elements", a statement said.

An adviser to Rouhani, Hesameddin Ashena, meanwhile accused Trump of moving towards war with Iran, instead of trying to reach an agreement on its nuclear programme. Last week, Iran warned it would begin enriching uranium at higher levels in 60 days if world powers failed to negotiate new terms for the deal.

"There has been no increased threat from Iranian-backed forces in Iraq and Syria", said Major General Chris Ghika, a British spokesman for the force. The U.S. supported the coalition for years despite its airstrikes killing civilians, and is only recently beginning to step back after the October killing of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul by Saudi agents. The incident in Fujairah, damaging four ships, also remains mysterious, with no claims of responsibility nor a clear account of the mode of attack.

Interested in Iran? Add Iran as an interest to stay up to date on the latest Iran news, video, and analysis from ABC News. "They're not going to be happy", Trump told reporters, assuring them the Iranian government knows exactly what he means by "bad problem".

Saudi Arabia and the UAE are the largest and third-largest producers respectively in the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).

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