CAIRO — Iran’s largest Navy ship sank on Wednesday after catching hearth within the Gulf of Oman close to a significant transport lane, a semiofficial Iranian information company reported. It was the newest in a sequence of explosions, fires and different mishaps at Iranian navy and nuclear infrastructure in current months, simply as Iran and the United States started negotiating a potential return to the 2015 nuclear settlement.
The Tasnim information company, citing a press release from Iran’s navy, mentioned that the ship, the Kharg, had been deployed to worldwide waters to take part in a naval train when “one of its systems” caught hearth. The Kharg, which Tasnim described as a “training and logistical ship,” had been in service for greater than 40 years and was routinely included in coaching operations, the information company mentioned.
Military and civilian crews battled the fireplace for 20 hours earlier than the ship sank off the coast of the southern port of Jask, Tasnim reported. The crew members managed to evacuate after the fireplace broke out and had been transferred to shore, the report famous, suggesting that there have been no casualties. The Kharg, additionally spelled Khark in English, serves as a naval replenishment ship and is Iran’s largest vessel by tonnage weight, in accordance with an evaluation of Iran’s navy.
For Iran, mysterious naval incidents have not often remained simply that. Although it was too early to assign duty for the Kharg hearth, the timing — as Iran and the United States are again on the negotiating desk, discussing whether or not to as soon as once more raise American sanctions in change for limiting Iran’s nuclear and different navy actions — raised alarm.
Iran has many regional foes who’re leery of renewing such a deal, together with Israel, which has tacitly acknowledged duty for a number of current assaults on Iranian nuclear services and the brazen killing of a high nuclear scientist, and Gulf international locations such because the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia.
In April, an Iranian navy vessel stationed within the Red Sea was broken by an obvious Israeli mine assault, the primary time Israeli-Iranian skirmishes at sea had affected an Iranian ship used for navy functions.
“Obviously, the thing we’re all looking for is if the Israelis are involved,” mentioned Sanam Vakil, deputy director of the Middle East and North Africa Program at Chatham House. “The Israeli security establishment is using this period to define some new red lines vis-à-vis Iran and really demonstrate their capacity.”
Israel, she added, has been sending a message to the United States and the area that it’s “willing to act independently in order to protect its security interests.”
The Iranian port of Jask sits on the Gulf of Oman close to the Strait of Hormuz, an important transport lane that results in the Persian Gulf. It is an space the place the fraught relations between Iran, the United States and its allies have performed out: Beginning in 2019, ships within the Gulf of Oman suffered a sequence of maritime guerrilla assaults, crippling business oil tankers and spooking worldwide oil markets.
The United States mentioned that the assaults had been a tacit risk by Tehran to dam the transport artery and accused it of concentrating on the ships with limpet mines, even releasing a video that confirmed members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps eradicating an unexploded mine from a vessel. Iran denied attacking the ships.
Yet Iran additionally has a historical past of naval disasters which can be apparently unrelated to exterior enemies. During a navy coaching train final year, a missile from an Iranian frigate mistakenly struck one other ship close to the identical port, Jask, killing at the very least 19 sailors and wounding 15.
It will not be straightforward to tell apart clumsiness from obfuscation. Iran performed down Israeli involvement in current assaults in an effort to decrease tensions and keep away from acknowledging Israel’s successes, blaming as an alternative inside sabotage.
“It’s bad if it’s their own fault, and it’s bad if the Israelis are behind it,” Ms. Vakil mentioned. “It’s embarrassing either way. So the question is: How are they going to spin this?”