Oil tanker Riah, which, according to vessel location tracking websites, stopped transmitting signals on its location in the early hours of 14 July, didn't issue any emergency signals, a highly-profile Emirate official told Al-Arabiya on Tuesday.
"The oil tanker is not owned, and nor is used by the United Arab Emirates, it hasn't trasmitted any SOS signals," the speaker told the television channel, busting reports that the vessel had changed its course and got lost in the Strait of Hormuz off the Iranian coast.
Earlier in the day, an unnamed US defense official told The Associated Press that America “has suspicions” that Iran seized an oil tanker based in the UAE.
#UPDATE: This is the last known position of the UAE (Panama flagged) oil products tanker in Iranian waters near Iran’s Qeshm island 44 hours ago. CNN’s @barbarastarrcnn reports US intel belives IRGC Navy may have forced the vessel into Iranian waters, no contact with crew. pic.twitter.com/GRHTt6bzi9— ELINT News (@ELINTNews) 15 июля 2019 г.
The 190-foot MT Riah, carrying the flag of Panama, was last mapped in the vicinity of Iran, near the island of Qeshm, which hosts a local Revolutionary Guard base, according to Haaretz.
According to Seyed Hadi Afghahi, an Iranian politologist and expert on Mideast countries, former diplomat at the Iranian embassy in Beirut, it is necessary to understand where and where from the tanker was moving, why it disappeared and where it ended up.
“Another issue is that the vessel reportedly belongs to the UK, but has a flag of Panama and carried cargo for the Emirates. If the ship is really an Emirate one, why did they state that they have nothing to do with it?”
The analyst went on to say that whatever happens in the Strait of Hormuz, Americans always point a finger at Iran’s “complicity,” use Photoshop and photo editing.
“This happened to the tanker in Fujaira,” he continued adding:
“When during a visit of the Japanese prime minister to Iran two tankers exploded, the US again pointed at Iran – although it rescued the crew (the incident that occurred on 13 June in the Gulf of Oman – in the waters between Iran, the UAE and Oman; Iran rescued 44 people at the time – Sputnik.)”
Afghahi is certain the US is striving to make the Strait of Hormuz, which many lead to the creation of an anti-Iranian international coalition. “Unfortunately, they are creating such incidents themselves, in a bid to frighten Iran, but at the same time they are unable to ground not a single instance of the Islamic Republic having anything to do with the attacks.”
Oil tankers have been lately targeted in a number of sabotage attacks in the area. Four tankers in the Gulf of Oman, belonging to Norway, the UAE and Saudi Arabia, were left crippled in a series of explosions that damaged their hulls in May 2019.
While an investigation by the UAE has failed to determine who masterminded the "sabotage", the US has accused Iran of it, with the latter flatly denying the claims. Iran has denounced alleged false-flag operations aimed against it, warning that they lead to instability in the region.
Along with oil tanker sabotages, the Persian Gulf region became central in a standoff over Iran's embattled nuclear deal with world powers, with one of Iranian tankers being seized in early July by British Marines in Gibraltar. The Iranian supertanker Grace 1 was stopped on suspicions that the vessel was transferring crude oil to Syria from Iran in violation of EU sanctions, as Iran stepped up efforts to push for better conditions under the 2015 deal that the US unilaterally pulled from in May 2018.