Iran instructed the Houthi rebels in Yemen to strike two Saudi oil tankers in a Strait leading to the Red Sea last month, an official from the Islamic Republic’s Revolutionary Guard admitted on Tuesday.

“We asked the Yemenis to attack the two Saudi oil tankers, so they did it,” IRGC Commander Nasser Shabani said on Tuesday according to Iranian news agency Fars.

The attack on the Saudi oil vessels happened in the Bab al-Mandab Strait which connects the Red Sea and the Arabian Sea and is a narrow, strategic navigation lane for oil and international trade.

Initially, Saudi Arabia’s response was to temporarily suspended oil shipments through the Bab al-Mandab Strait .

“All oil shipments through Bab al-Mandab Strait have been suspended temporarily until… maritime transit through the area is safe,” Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih declared at the time.

State-run Saudi oil company Aramco said that the closure was “in the interest of the safety of the ships and their crews and to avoid the risk of oil spill.”

“The coalition will not allow the Huthi militias to build military capabilities that threaten regional waters,” the coalition statement said.

However, the kingdom later responded by destroying sites used by the Houthi rebels in Yemen to launch missiles at the kingdom.

In a statement reported by Saudi Arabia’s government-run Al Ekhbariya TV, the coalition announced the “destruction of ballistic missile (launch) sites run by the Houthi militias in Saada”, a northern Yemeni province bordering Saudi Arabia and controlled by the Houthis.

Riyadh and its allies are fighting alongside Yemen’s government against the Iran-backed Houthis in a war that has claimed nearly 10,000 lives and pushed impoverished Yemen to the brink of famine.

Saudi Arabia has come under increasingly frequent missile attacks launched by the Houthis from northern Yemen this year.

The kingdom’s air defense forces say they intercepted all missiles, and only one casualty has been reported.

Tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia remain high, with each side supporting conflicting sides in Yemen, Syria and Lebanon.

Saudi Arabia is worried that Iran will acquire nuclear weapons and thus change the power balance in the region. The kingdom therefore supports US President Trump’s hard line towards Iran, seeing it as a more efficient way to curb its nuclear program.

The US re-imposed a wave of tough, unilateral sanctions against Iran on Tuesday, bringing back into effect harsh penalties lifted by the 2015 nuclear deal from which Washington withdrew earlier this year.

The first of two rounds of US sanctions kicked in at 12:01 a.m. (0431 GMT) Tuesday, targeting Iran’s access to US banknotes and key industries, including cars and carpets.

Source » i24news