UAE won't be baited into Iran crisis as tensions mount

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While Saudi Arabia on Tuesday unleashed a barrage of tweets accusing their mutual enemy of ordering drone strikes on its oil installations, the UAE held off on blaming anyone for Sunday's attacks pending an investigation.

US officials are now concerned that Iran has passed this naval combat expertise on to proxy forces in the region, whom Washington blames for attacks against four oil tankers off the coast of the United Arab Emirates on Sunday.

At the root of the recent spike in Persian Gulf tensions appears to be President Donald Trump's decision a year ago to pull the USA from Iran's nuclear deal with world powers, embarking on a maximalist sanctions campaign against Tehran to cripple the country's economy.

On Wednesday, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash said the UAE would show restraint and was committed to de-escalation.

Iran's foreign minister on Thursday said sanctions imposed by the Trump administration are "unacceptable" but that his country is committed to an worldwide nuclear deal that has steadily unraveled amid rising tensions.

The techniques used in the attacks against the tankers off the Emirates' coast were not particularly sophisticated, observers with military and intelligence experience say.

"When tensions are this high, with the US deploying a sizable military force, even a mistake or a tactical error by Iran could ignite the Middle East powder keg", Stephen Innes, head of trading and market strategy at SPI Asset Management told Reuters by email.

Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said during a visit to Tokyo on Thursday that Iran has the right to respond to the "unacceptable" US sanctions, but has exercised "maximum restraint". It added that Saudi Aramco's oil and gas supplies were unaffected.

The Arab News published an editorial in English on Thursday, arguing that after incidents this week against Saudi energy targets, the next logical step "should be surgical strikes". This was supported by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, which said they would increase oil production to keep prices stable. The website, whose analysts monitor oil sales on the seas, first reported about the black marks.

Opec+ will convene in Jeddah on Friday for its technical committee meeting amid fresh oil supply uncertainties against a backdrop of escalating tensions in the waters off the UAE coast and attacks on two oil pumping stations in Saudi Arabia. This can happen if Tehran attacks American troops or its allies in the region, in the event of the closure of the Strait of Hormuz, and in the case if Iran speeds up the development of nuclear weapons.

He added that USA sanctions had bit deeply into Iran and that a political solution was necessary.

A USA official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss an ongoing investigation, has said the other three showed damage as well.

The US deployed an aircraft carrier, a Patriot missile battery, B-52 and F-15 aircrafts, and amphibious dock in response to an unspecified threat from Iran.

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