UAE Probe Blames ‘State Actor’ for Oil Tanker Attacks

Claims sabotage required 'expert' navigation

An investigation conducted jointly by the United Arab Emirates, Norway, and Saudi Arabia has offered “preliminary findings” which blame the May 12 sabotage of four oil tankers off the coast of the UAE on an unnamed “state actor.” The intended implication is that this state actor is Iran.

Officials have been insinuating that this was an Iranian attack virtually from the start, though the evidence is spotty at best, and the motive is entirely non-existent. The UAE-led probe doesn’t add much to those claims.

Indeed, their sole real conclusions on it being a state actor at all is that there were 200 ships present, and the attackers must have had the capabilities to select four oil tankers among them all, even though oil tankers are visibly apparent, and that whoever it was had “expert” ability to navigate a small speed boat.

To be clear, the probe never establishes conclusively that these were deliberate attacks involving planted explosives, and seems to take that for granted, apparently because Israel’s Mossad had already made such allegations.

The lack of motives, however, is the real glaring problem.  Sabotaging tankers in such a way would be a huge international incident. Yet the four tankers in question suffered only superficial damage, with no casualties inflicted and not a drop of oil spilled.

John Bolton argued it must be Iran because he can’t think of anyone else it might be, but Iran doesn’t appear to gain anything from this. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo suggested it might have been an attempt by Iran to raise oil prices, yet that clearly did not happen, and there would’ve been no reason to think that it would’ve.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is senior editor of