CHARLOTTE, NC: Once again the Middle Eastern pendulum is swinging back toward making the region a global hot spot. Not that it ever cools off to any suitable degree in the first place. As the classic line from Casablanca goes, it’s time to “round up the usual suspects.” Particularly following the attacks on two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman.
Government Minister Harriet Baldwin of the United Kingdom says that the attacks were carried out by Iran. The rest of the international community appears to agree.
Adding to the controversy, Crown Prince Mohammed of Saudi Arabia claims Iran disrespected Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. PM Abe was in Tehran on a diplomatic visit during Iran’s attacks on the Japanese ship.
Both Saudi Arabia and the United States responded immediately to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Pompeo is warning the US will take all actions necessary to prevent Iran from disrupting the flow of energy supplies in the Gulf.
Pompeo’s comments following Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman promising the Kingdom would:
“not hesitate in dealing with any threat against our people, sovereignty and vital interests.”
Tehran denies the charges as “baseless.”
The crown prince added that the attacks:
“Underscore the importance of our demand before the international community to take a decisive stance against an expansionist regime that has supported terrorism and spread death and destruction over the past decades, not only in the region but the whole world.”
According to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, the source of the attacks were in retaliation for the unilateral US withdrawal a year ago from the nuclear arms deal. Negotiated in 2015, the arms deal resulted in tough US economic sanctions on Tehran.
Rouhani countered the sanctions on May 8 announcing that Iran would stop observing restrictions on its stocks of enriched uranium and heavy water that were agreed upon under the 2015 deal.
China, Japan, South Korea, and Indonesia all rely heavily upon navigational freedom through the Strait of Hormuz. Thus, Secretary Pompeo says the US is currently discussing a possible international response to the attacks.
“I’m confident that when they see the risk, the risk to their own economies and their own people, and outrageous behavior of Iran, they will join us in this,” said Pompeo.
In a live televised press conference, Behrouz Kamalvandi, Iran’s atomic energy organization spokesman, announced
“Today the countdown to pass the 300 kilograms reserve of enriched uranium has started and in 10 days time … we will pass this limit.”
The 2015 accord set a limit on the number of uranium-enriching centrifuges and restricted its right to enrich uranium to no higher than 3.67 percent. This is well below weapons-grade levels of around 90 percent.
In an effort to put pressure on the US, Iran has established a July 8 deadline for Britain, China, France, Germany, and Russia to circumvent the American sanctions by threatening to further increase uranium enrichment production.
Further complicating the situation was a missile attack by Yemeni Houthis at Saudi Arabia’s Abha International Airport on June 12. The explosion in the arrivals hall wounded 26 civilians. Houthis claiming the attack was “eye-for-an-eye” revenge on the Saudis for escalating hostilities on civilian areas in Yemen over the past four years.
Some analysts believe, however, that the Saudi airport incident can also be traced back to Iran.
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said,
“(Iran) also employed its militias to carry out a shameful attack against Abha International Airport. This is clear evidence of the Iranian regime’s policy and intentions to target the security and stability of the region.”
By now the world is only too keenly aware that the Middle East “stability” is little more than a matter of degree. The region has not been at peace for 14 centuries. During that time, finger-pointing has become the national pastime in many Arabic countries.
For Westerners, it is time to be vigilant once again. The powder keg that is the Middle East is ready to explode once more. Combined with an American president who is characterized by his “ready, fire, aim” approach to conflicts, the time has come to wake up and pay attention yet again.
With summer holidays in full swing, the warnings are there for potential new sources of terrorism in the West. Now the question is whether or not we will heed them in advance. Recent history says “no.”
About the Author:
Bob Taylor is a veteran writer who has traveled throughout the world. Taylor is an award-winning television producer/reporter/anchor before focusing on writing about international events, people and cultures around the globe.
Taylor is the founder of The Magellan Travel Club (www.MagellanTravelClub.com)
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