Damaged Japanese tanker arrives at UAE anchorage

The Kokuka Courageous was carrying highly flammable methanol through the Gulf of Oman on Thursday when it and the Norwegian-operated Front Altair were rocked by explosions. (File/AFP)
Updated 16 June 2019

Damaged Japanese tanker arrives at UAE anchorage

  • “Kokuka Courageous has arrived safely at the designated anchorage at Sharjah,” according to a statement
  • The other ship, the Front Altair, has left Iran’s territorial waters, multiple sources said Saturday

DUBAI: A Japanese tanker, attacked in the Gulf in an incident that sparked a new standoff between Washington and Tehran, “arrived safely” Sunday at an anchorage off the UAE, its management said.
The Kokuka Courageous was carrying highly flammable methanol through the Gulf of Oman on Thursday when it and the Norwegian-operated Front Altair were rocked by explosions.
The US and Saudi Arabia have accused Iran of responsibility.
“Kokuka Courageous has arrived safely at the designated anchorage at Sharjah,” an emirate neighboring Dubai, the vessel’s Singapore-based BSM Ship Management said in a statement Sunday.
The crew, who remained on board, were “safe and well,” it said, adding that a damage assessment and preparations for transferring the ship’s cargo would start “once the port authorities have completed their standard security checks and formalities.”
BSM Ship Management had said earlier Kokuka Courageous was heading toward an anchorage on the eastern coast of the United Arab Emirates, facing the Gulf of Oman.
The other ship, the Front Altair, has left Iran’s territorial waters, multiple sources said Saturday.
It was “heading toward the Fujairah-Khor Fakkan area in the United Arab Emirates,” the ports chief of Iran’s southern province of Hormozgan told the semi-official news agency ISNA.
A spokeswoman for Frontline Management, the Norwegian company which owns the ship, said “all 23 crew members of the tanker departed Iran” and flew to Dubai on Saturday.
The US military on Friday released grainy footage it said showed an Iranian patrol boat removing an “unexploded limpet mine” from the Japanese vessel.
Tehran has vehemently denied any involvement.
Iran has repeatedly warned in the past that it could block the strategic Hormuz Strait in a relatively low-tech, high-impact countermeasure to any attack by the United States.
Doing so would disrupt oil tankers traveling out of the Gulf region to the Indian Ocean and global export routes.


Hundreds of employees fired from Turkey’s Incirlik air base

Updated 53 sec ago

Hundreds of employees fired from Turkey’s Incirlik air base

  • Incirlik Air Base is located in Turkey’s Adana province, near the Syrian border, and it has been a strategic element in ties between Ankara and Washington
  • It has also played a key role for the US-led Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR) against Daesh in Syria and Iraq in the past

ANKARA: More than 420 people working at a crucial military air base in southern Turkey have lost their jobs, with some analysts considering it symbolic of decreased cooperation levels with the US and as the Pentagon reconsiders Middle East deployments.
Incirlik Air Base is located in Turkey’s Adana province, near the Syrian border, and it has been a strategic element in ties between Ankara and Washington. It has also played a key role for the US-led Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR) against Daesh in Syria and Iraq in the past, as well as hosting US nuclear warheads.
The Colorado-based company Vectrus System Corporation, which provides day-to-day maintenance and operation services at the base, terminated the contracts of almost half of its employees at the base earlier this month.
“The base surged to support OIR,” Aaron Stein, director of the Middle East program at the Foreign Policy Research Institute, told Arab News. “The Turkey-based staff for OIR has mostly left. So, the base is going back to its pre-OIR level of people, and that level requires less contractor support.”
Vectrus did not reply to Arab News’ request for comment about its decision to scale back at the base.
Joe Macaron, a resident fellow at the Arab Center in Washington, said the move was largely symbolic as the canceled contracts related to logistical support rather than the US military mission.
“But obviously, it comes against the background of some tensions in the US-Turkish relationship and previous hints by Ankara that it might reconsider the status of the Incirlik base,” he told Arab News. “The Pentagon is reconsidering its deployment across the Middle East and it might be looking to become less dependent on Incirlik without fully exiting this crucial military air base.”
Incirlik air base has been used in the past as a bargaining chip at times of tension between the two countries.
“Turkey may re-evaluate the status of the Incirlik Air Base if the US imposes sanctions,” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said last month in an interview with pro-government channel A-Haber, referring to the potential fallout from Turkey’s decision to buy an air defense system from Russia. 
Washington has threatened to use its Countering America’s Adversaries through Sanctions Act to punish Ankara for buying the S-400 system.
Seth J. Frantzman, who is executive director of the Middle East Center for Reporting and Analysis, said reports of the US reducing presence at Incirlik, or challenges to the US presence there, have been growing over the last years.
“Whether these reports relate to changes or are just random is unclear and it is important to note that the large interests of the military and history tend to mean the US does not simply walk away from bases, even if it reduces its role slowly over time,” he told Arab News.
The US has invested heavily in the Jordanian Muwaffaq Salti Air Base to expand its presence there.