Tehran (GPA) – The explosions on May 12th off the coast of Fujairah, one of the largest shipping hubs across the globe, has become a controversy shrouded in mystery that could serve the interests of warmongers around the globe.

With the details of the incident remaining obscure over a week later, it’s still unclear what happened and who was behind the explosions. Yet a close look at the coverage of the incident by western mainstream media indicates they assisted the UAE and Saudi governments to cover up the real magnitude of the incident, instead of doing rigorous and professional journalism. The corporate media is also working hand in hand with those governments to implicate Iran in the case, as part of their extensive anti-Iran propaganda campaign.

What Happened?

Some details of the incident first emerged on the morning of May 12th on the Beirut-based TV channel Al-Mayadeen, which quoted “Gulf sources” as saying explosions were heard at the port and seven ships anchored near the port had been damaged. The UAE officials, namely the Fujairah Media Office and the harbormaster of the Fujairah port, initially dismissed the reports and insisted it was business as usual at the port. In the evening, however, the UAE Foreign Ministry released a short and vague statement that acknowledged the incident but sought to play it down. The statement said only “four” of what it called “commercial vessels” had suffered “sabotage” at “open seas” near Fujairah, and there were no injuries and no spill of chemicals or fuel.

An Act of Sabotage?

Outlets in Russia, India, Iran and elsewhere immediately picked up the Al Mayadeen report, but the western agencies were all silent until hours later when the UAE issued its statement. Even after the western agencies published reports on the incident, they simply repeated the UAE and Saudi narrative. Typically, Western news media echoed the “sabotage” as if it was fact, basing their source of information on the Saudi and Emirati officials.

Related: Who Really Gains from the Gulf Ship ‘Sabotage’

This was all while there was no verifiable information about the “sabotage”. All the western media had were claims from Saudi and UAE officials, the same people who claim people disappear into thin air while in consulates, that Yemeni children are massacred in air strikes by “mistake”, or that political dissidents are “terrorists” who must be beheaded by the sword.

Interestingly, the western agencies who seem to be so credulous in citing Saudi-Emirati claims as reliable are highly pessimistic towards assertions by countries like Iran.

As an illustration, some western agencies sought to cast doubt on Iran’s official account in 2017 when it launched air strikes against Daesh positions in Syria. Notably, Reuters wrote in an article that “it could not independently verify the report” that Iran had targeted Daesh positions. In another instance, the Associated Press brought into question Iran’s launching of Simorgh rocket in 2017 by tilting its report “Iran claims launch of satellite-carrying rocket into space”.

Failure to Challenge Contradictions

The western agencies preferred not to investigate the Saudi-UAE claims about what had happened, despite clear contradictions in their narrative. For example, the UAE statement said the ships targeted were in open seas but Saudi Arabia announced its tankers had been attacked within the commercial zone of the port. The UAE statement said operations at the port were normal on May 12th, while a simple Google search showed that the port was closed and roads to the port were also blocked. Some agencies did investigate the case, but their investigations were limited to claims disputing the UAE narrative.

Reuters reporting on the supposed attack, for example, cited “trading and industry sources” as saying that operations were running smoothly at the port. Moreover, the US-based Associated Press reported claims by the “pro-Iran” Al-Mayadeen about explosions at the port were “false” after it spoke to Emirati officials and local witnesses. Shamefully, most other Western media adopted the same reliance on the official Saudi and Emirati claims and tamely went along gullibly with this risible charade. This leads one to wonder if the western outlets would have treated the incident the same way in case Saudi Arabia and the UAE were not client states who lavishly exchange their nations’ petrodollars for the US support.

Related: Millennium Challenge: When the US Navy Lost a Simulated War With Iran

Oil at Play?

The behavior of the western media regarding the Fujairah incident was similar to their treatment of reports on the Saudi port of Yanbu published earlier this month. On May 6, several outlets reported a number of powerful explosions were heard in Yanbu, the main shipping terminal for Saudi exports to the US and Europe. The western agencies ignored such reports, toeing the line of Saudi officials who refused to provide comment on them. This is while similar attacks against the port in 2017 and 2018 had been confirmed by Saudi sources, including Al-Arabiya who in 2018 claimed the Saudi forces had destroyed a Yemeni ballistic missile en route to Yanbu. The reason why Saudi Arabia and the UAE tend to keep silence on these recent incidents could be attributed to fears that the global oil market might be negatively impacted, at a time when escalating US pressure to cut off Iran’s oil exports has created worries over the possibility that this could upset the oil market. The shortage of oil in the global markets, resulting at least partly from the US decision not to extend sanctions waivers for Iranian oil costumers, has already led to increased fuel prices in the US and Britain.

False Flag Operation

More than nine days into the incident, little information has been offered on where the vessels were when they were assaulted, what sort of weapons were used, and who did it. Yet, many western media outlets linked the incident to the Iran-US standoff, implying that Iran was a possible culprit. Moreover, the US officials claimed that most likely Iran – or Iranian-backed proxies – were behind the incident. This is while Iranian officials almost immediately condemned the attacks, with Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman warning against “conspiracy orchestrated by ill-wishers” and “adventurism by foreigners” to undermine the maritime region’s stability and security.

Taking into account the timing and motives, one could argue the incident could be a well-planned false-flag operation organized by a state actor to incite hostilities with Iran. Iran to Take the Blame But given the corporate media and US officials’ willingness to suggest Iranian culpability, it appears that this incident could be seized upon by those eager to see tensions with Iran escalate. With the results of a joint investigation by the UAE, the US and France to be announced in the coming days, one could anticipate western agencies lining up to present unsubstantiated anti-Iran claims as unchallenged facts. Western governments who have been busy wreaking havoc in the Middle East for the past couple of decades will also rush to accuse Iran of disrupting peace in the region and call for measures to protect “security” and “freedom” in the Persian Gulf. The UAE has refused to elaborate on the nature of the “sabotage”, perhaps to prepare the ground for a powerful smear campaign against Iran. Apparently, criminal regimes are doing their best to lie the globe into a potentially disastrous war in the region. Let’s hope the world is smart enough not to be fooled into buying such lies.

This post was written by Geopolitics Alert contributor Alireza Hashemi. Opinions expressed by contributors are their own and may not reflect the editorial line of Geopolitics Alert.

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