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Playing with fire

Jun 15,2019 - Last updated at Jun 15,2019

Tension in the Arab Gulf region is mounting by the day now, if not by the hour, especially after two oil tankers were set ablaze in the Gulf of Oman on Thursday.

This most recent escalation came in the aftermath of the attacks on May 12 on four oil tankers off the coast of the United Arab Emirates, allegedly by Iran or its surrogates.

The US has already pointed the finger at Iran as being behind the series of attacks on ships in and around the strategic Strait of Hormuz, and has shown video footage of Iranian complicity in the attacks. Iran, of course, denied involvement but the preponderance of the evidence until now suggests that Tehran is, indeed, the culprit.

Tehran may have calculated that Washington is not willing or ready for a major armed conflict with a determined adversary such as Iran so close to the 2020 US presidential election. Whoever is behind the attacks on oil shipping across the Strait of Hormuz is playing with fire, as much of the oil from the oil-rich region goes through the strait to the four corners of the world.

This means that the UN Security Council must be seized with the spiralling tension in the area as a matter of top urgency. Major wars are often ignited over less important conflicts, and when it comes to the free flow of oil, the stakes are too high for the international community to remain on the sideline.

Yet, a UN intervention must go beyond censorship, condemnation or even investigation. Some kind of UN military presence in the region is now urgently needed before the growing tension spills over and engulfs the entire region.

Against this backdrop of accusations and denials, the world needs to get to the bottom of the conflict in the Arab Gulf region not only by words, but rather by deeds as well. Only an international investigation, coupled with a UN military presence, would put an end to speculations about the guilt or innocence of nations already on the list of the accused. Some countries appear ready and able to play with fire to promote their own agendas.

Short of a timely international intervention, therefore, the entire Middle East could become engulfed in a widespread war with dire consequences to global peace and security.

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