Mystery Missile Attack off the Saudi Coast

Rosalind Mathieson

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An Iranian oil tanker slammed by rockets in the Red Sea, damaged and unassisted in its distress.The tanker is leaking oil — it can carry 1 million barrels of crude — so poses an immediate environmental risk and a danger to shipping in a busy waterway. Beyond that, however, it’s a geopolitical whodunit with big implications for an already febrile region.

The unexplained attack adds to tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia over drone and missile strikes last month on Saudi oil facilities that briefly cut global supplies by 5%, the worst sudden disruption in history. The Saudis blamed Iran for that attack, with Tehran, in turn, pointing the finger at Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen.

A spokesman for the National Iranian Tanker Company initially said the missiles involved in today’s strike probably came from the direction of Saudi Arabia. NITC later withdrew that claim in a statement.It’s unclear where else the missiles would have originated. Perhaps the NITC spokesman jumped the gun in speaking publicly.Even if Iran doesn’t want to rush to point the finger at Riyadh, this attack underscores how vulnerable energy supplies in the region remain. That’s bad news for oil, the global economy and broader political stability.

Global Headlines

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--With assistance from Kathleen Hunter, Iain Marlow and Tim Ross.

To contact the author of this story: Rosalind Mathieson in London at rmathieson3@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Alan Crawford at acrawford6@bloomberg.net, Karl Maier

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