ANALYSIS: Did the US sink an Iranian oil tanker en route to North Korea?

Smokes and flames engulf the burning Iranian oil tanker Sanchi in the East China Sea. (AP)

An Iranian tanker sank on Sunday after catching fire for eight days in Chinese territorial waters. The crew, which numbered to 32 individuals, all died with no survivors.

According to the official Iranian narrative, which was reported by the official Persian-speaking media outlets, the tanker Sanchi collided with a Chinese ship. In an interview with Iranian state television, the head of the Port and Maritime Organization of Iran, Mohammad Rastad confessed that: “There is no hope in saving the crew, 30 of whom are Iranian and two are Bangladeshis,” adding that the intensity of the explosion and the leakage of toxic gases caused the death of the entire crew.

Soon after the announcement of the tanker’s sinking, news leaked to Iranian media from the backstage of the Iranian parliament providing a completely different version that claims that the ship was attacked by Americans as reported by Asr Iran and Tabnak news websites.

Iran oil tanker. (Reuters)

Iran oil tanker. (Reuters)

According to Tabnak website, rumors were circulating in the corridors of parliament by some MPs claiming that the oil tanker was attacked by the Americans. According to this report, the oil tanker was headed to North Korea and not South Korea, which prompted the Americans to block it and sink the ship.

According to this version the parliament listed, in its classified bulletin, that the incident was caused by an American attack, denying the official version that claims that the oil tanker “ had collided with the Chinese ship CF Crystal, stressing that the Iranian oil tanker was targeted by a missile fired from an American fighter.

The Chinese and Iranian media did not publish any picture of the Chinese ship that was en route from the United States to Zhoushan Island. The Chinese ship was not damaged, despite the horrific incident and docked in a port in the province of Zhejiang. Two boats of the Chinese border guards anchored next to it, according to the Iranian media reports.

An Iranian relative of the oil Tanker crewmen, who were aboard it when it collided with a cargo ship off China eight days ago, reacts inside Iran's International Oil Tanker Central building in the capital Tehran. (AFP)

An Iranian relative of the oil Tanker crewmen, who were aboard it when it collided with a cargo ship off China eight days ago, reacts inside Iran's International Oil Tanker Central building in the capital Tehran. (AFP)

But the Iranian website descried this version as strange and attributed the “spread of this rumor” to the core belief that many MP hold about the hostility of the United States and the recent escalation between the USA and North Korea. Nevertheless, the site did not provide any justification on the reasons for listing this incident in the secret bulletin of the Iranian parliament. How could it possible that deputies become affected by a rumor so much to the point of listing in the secret bulletin of parliament?

Rouhani calls for an investigation

Iranian President Hassan Ruhani called for “an investigation by the relevant institutions to examine this tragedy,” according to Iranian media.

The Iranian authorities did not provide any details or clarifications about what it considered a “collision between an Iranian oil tanker and a Chinese ship.”

The Iranian oil tanker was carrying 136 tons of liquid gas and about one million barrels of oil. The news agency Reuters evaluated the value of the load at about 60 million dollars and the price of oil tanker equivalent at about 60 million dollars.

China’s position

the Chinese ship CF Crystal, which allegedly hit the Iranian tanker, was unharmed while the Iranian ship burnt for 8 days before it sank completely; Hishmat Allah Faht Bisha , a member of the National Security and Foreign Policy Committee of the Iranian Parliament urged the need to summon the ambassador of Beijing in Tehran, stressing “the need to open an investigation into the incident and not allow political relations between the two countries to prevent a thorough investigation into this file in relation to the actions of China on this incident

Hishmat Allah Faht Bisha told Asr Iran news website that: “The Sanchi incident was a human tragedy, with serious unanswered questions. I think it was necessary to summon the Chinese ambassador.”

“How is it possible that the Chinese crew survived the incident while the Iranian tanker was burning for 8 days until it sank?” he wondered.

An Iranian oil tanker burst into flames from end to end and sank on January 14, eight days after it caught fire following a collision with a cargo ship off China. (AFP)

An Iranian oil tanker burst into flames from end to end and sank on January 14, eight days after it caught fire following a collision with a cargo ship off China. (AFP)

The member of the National Security and Foreign Policy Committee of the Iranian parliament stressed that “The investigation must be pursued through the black box of the ship because there are answered questions.”

The Iranian MP concluded by stressing that no obstruction of justice should be allowed in this incident to protect the diplomatic relations with China and revealed that the Committee on National Security and Foreign Policy in the Iranian parliament will follow this issue and put it on its agenda.

SHOW MORE
Last Update: 06:50 KSA 09:50 - GMT 06:50
Top