‘ATTACK ON IRANIAN TANKER WAS STATE SPONSORED!’ says Iran’s Foreign Minister Javed Zarif

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The Sabiti oil tanker after being hit by two missiles

IRAN’S Foreign Minister Javad Zarif says the attack on the Iranian oil tanker in the Red Sea last Friday was a ‘complicated action’ in which ‘one or more governments’ were involved.

‘According to information received, the attack on the Iranian tanker was carried out by one or more governments,’ Zarif said on Tuesday.

‘Of course, investigations are underway, but as long as we have not reached definitive conclusions, we will not accuse any government,’ he said.

The tanker, the Sabiti which is owned by the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC), was hit in Red Sea waters off Saudi Arabia by two missiles last Friday, leading to a leak which was quickly contained.

Zarif said: ‘The attack on the Iranian tanker was a sophisticated, state-sponsored action.’

President Hassan Rouhani said the incident had been captured on video, which showed the direction the rockets had been fired from.

Rouhani also said the attack was undoubtedly carried out by a government and that there would be consequences.

Mohammad Rastad, head of Iran’s Ports and Maritime Organisation, said the vessel is carrying 140,000 tonnes of crude oil which is undamaged, thanks to timely measures taken to contain the leak.

According to the official, the tanker is currently sailing in Bab al-Mandeb strait and will soon reach the Gulf of Aden.

It is bound for Bandar Abbas and estimated to reach the Iranian port in the next nine days, where necessary repairs will begin.

On Tuesday, Iranian media published new pictures of the Sabiti, showing two gaping holes in the hull, and other photos show the crew aboard the vessel as well as close-up views of the holes.

The Port and Maritime Organisation of Iran (PMO) said Saudi authorities had refused to provide help to the Sabiti after it came under attack.

Secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council (SNSC) Ali Shamkhani said the country will not leave ‘piracy and banditry’ in international waters unanswered.

The incident is the latest involving oil tankers in the Red Sea and Persian Gulf region, a vital waterway linking oil-producing countries to world markets.

President Hassan Rouhani has once again denounced the United States for unleashing a campaign of eonomic terrorism against the Iranian nation, saying Washington has committed ‘a crime against humanity’ by imposing sanctions on food and medical supplies.

The Iranian president made the remarks while addressing the 66th session of the World Health Organisation (WHO)’s Regional Committee for the Eastern Mediterranean (EMRO) in Tehran on Tuesday.

Rouhani said it was ‘shamful’ for the US to withdraw from the 2015 UN-backed multilateral nuclear agreement and re-impose tough economic sanctions against Iran.

The deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) was where Iran agreed to roll back parts of its nuclear programme in return for the lifting of some sanctions.

Rouhani continued: ‘This disgrace becomes more notable when the agreement was endorsed by the UN Security Council, meaning that the US has violated international regulations.

‘It is an even bigger shame’ for the US not to exempt food and medicine from its bans.

‘There is no doubt that the US administration has perpetrated a crime against humanity.

‘The US measure is an act of economic terrorism, but that does not mean the Iranian nation has been brought to its knees,’ he said.

Rouhani hailed efforts by Iranian ‘scientists, researchers, entrepreneurs and producers’ to help the country weather economic sanctions and increase the level of self-sufficiency in pharmaceutical sector, saying that Iran is currently producing more than 95% of its medical requirements domestically.

Officially, the American sanctions exempt humanitarian goods, such as medicine and medicinal instruments.

But in reality, the measures have restricted Iran’s access to medical and health services – the US’ sanctions against Iran’s health sector amount to crime against humanity, Rouhani said, adding:

‘America withdrew from the JCPOA without any excuse and solely under pressure from domestic hardliners, Saudi Arabia and the Zionist regime,’ and officials in Riyadh and Tel Aviv have openly admitted that they did their best to secure Washington’s exit from the Iran deal.

The Iranian chief executive emphasised that the US’s sanctions are in violation of UN Security Council Resolution 2231, which endorsed the Iran deal.

He said Iranians will never forget the ‘betrayal of humanity’ perpetrated by these sanctions ‘which make the US a loser in both politics and ethics.’

Meanwhile, Iran’s Parliament (Majlis) Speaker Ali Larijani has highlighted the significance of the issue of Palestine for Muslims, calling on the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) to serve as the ‘clear voice’ of the Palestinian nation amid the challenges facing the Islamic world.

Larijani made the remarks in a meeting with the IPU’s Secretary-General Martin Chungong in the Serbian capital, Belgrade, on Monday.

‘The IPU must be a clear voice for Palestine because Palestine is being ignored amid the chaos gripping the Muslim world,’ Larijani told Chungong.

Heading a parliamentary delegation, Larijani arrived in Belgrade to participate in the 141st IPU assembly, which is running from October 13-17.

The event is being attended by parliamentary delegations from around 180 countries.

The Iranian parliament speaker further called for enhanced economic ties among Muslim countries, saying that Muslims should take advantage of the IPU’s potential in this regard.

Chungong, for his part, briefed Larijani on the performance of the IPU, which is based in Tehran, saying several committees would be activated in the year ahead, with their focus on unemployment, human rights, terrorism and extremism.

Established in 1889, the Inter-Parliamentary Union works for peace, cooperation and the establishment of democracy in close contact with the United Nations.

Iran’s top security official says Washington’s ‘bitter confession’ of back-to-back political and military failures in the Middle East, despite spending billions of dollars, has led its allies to admit that the region is a safer place without the United States.

In a short note published on Monday, Secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council (SNSC) Ali Shamkhani referred to three facts admitted by senior American officials in the past two months.

First and foremost, he said, Washington came under pressure from Riyadh to respond to the September strikes by Yemen on the Aramco oil facilities, but the US clearly snubbed the request and did not put itself in harm’s way for the sake of Saudi Arabia.

Then came President Donald Trump’s announcement that the US had ‘foolishly’ spent $8 trillion in the Middle East for nothing.

Finally, the US turned its back on its Kurdish allies after Turkey decided to launch an incursion into northern Syria, he added.

The head of Yemen’s Supreme Revolutionary Committee also called on Washington to ‘learn from Vietnam’ after the US announced plans to deploy 1,800 more troops to Saudi Arabia.

Shamkhani touched on Trump’s announcement that the US military involvement in the Middle East was the ‘worst decision ever made.

‘It seems that the US administration has come to the conclusion through objective experience that the equation of power and political geometry of the world has changed, especially at its heart, the Middle East, and that the United States can no longer claim absolute authority over the affairs of the international system.’

He added: ‘America has realised that it has only two options; either to be just content with an empty mask of being a global superpower despite heavy costs, or to adopt a realistic approach and acknowledge the present reality of the globe and rid itself of hefty costs of this unmasked masquerade.’

Shamkhani touched on the US inability to execute its strategic projects such as the ‘new Middle East,’ ‘the deal of the century,’ regime change in Iran, Saudi Arabia as the regional gendarme, the Yemen war, the Afghan peace plan and the Syria crisis.

‘The ruling US administration’s confession has led many countries in western Asia, even those who have been facilitating and hosting the American presence in the region for years, to acknowledge that the Middle East is a safer place without America,’ he said.