U.S. Navy gunners aboard a refueling ship opened fire on a small boat racing toward them in broad daylight near Dubai, killing one person and injuring three. One Indian fisherman was killed and three others wounded in the incident.
A UAE official said the vessel was a fishing boat. Similar boats to the one shoot at are regular used in the area, though Iran’s Revolutionary Guard also employs relatively small, fast-moving craft in the Gulf.
The Indian Foreign Ministry called on the UAE to probe the fatal shooting.
July 16, 2012
Analysis and Forecast: Increasing Risk
The accident itself does not carry a significant risk. However, its repercussions may. The fact that the US Navy chose to shoot at the vessel indicates a highly tense situation in the area, with a military confrontation between the US and Iran not ruled out. It is not yet clear why the fishing boat was approaching with such speed and what provoked the US shooting. An outside involvement, including an Iranian one, has not been ruled out, not as an attack, but in an attempt to inflame the situation.
The political repercussions will follow the Indian request to investigate the killing of the fisherman. India, the biggest buyer of Iranian oil before the sanctions started, has been careful to be seen as neutral as possible in the developing crisis in the region. It will therefore remain to be seen whether the Indians will be content with the explanation that will be given by the US authorities, that this was an accident, or whether further investigations will be called for. In the case of the latter, the UAE in particular will be under diplomatic pressure to provide explanations, leading to an overall increase of political risk.