Iran's Largest Warship Sinks
Iran's largest warship sank in the waters of the Gulf of Oman after a mysterious fire gutted its deck at 2:25 a.m. on June 2, 2021.
The Kharg was over 40 years old. It was built by Britain in 1977, and had been used by Iran since 1984 as a logistics ship that supplies other warships.
According to the Associated Press, 400 sailors and trainee cadets fled the 207-meter vessel, with 33 suffering injuries.
It is unclear what started the fire, but it happened at a tense time in the Middle East. Iran was accused of funding the fundamentalist militant group Hamas, which recently fired over 4,000 rockets into Israel. Iran is also in negotiations with the U.S. and other nuclear powers for the lifting of sanctions placed on the country for its nuclear ambitions.
According to a spokesperson for the Iranian navy, heroic efforts to save the ship were futile.
“A 20-hour effort to extinguish the fire by the ship’s damage-control team, which were joined by firefighting crews as well as military and civilian forces from other nearby vessels, failed to save Kharg,” the spokesperson told Fars News.
Iranian officials did not say what caused the fire aboard the Kharg, but assured the public an investigation is underway.
A Shadow War in the Middle East
According to the Associated Press, the fire that gutted the Kharg warship on Wednesday follows a string of mysterious ship explosions in the Gulf of Oman, which began in 2019. Many of the exploded ships were commercial vessels.
The U.S. Navy once accused Iran of targeting the ships with limpet mines. The U.S. Navy showed footage of Revolutionary Guard members removing an unexploded limpet mine from a ship. According to AP, the number of attacks on the ships increased after then-President Donald Trump withdrew the U.S. from the nuclear talks with Tehran.
Israel has also been suspected of carrying out attacks on Iranian ships. Back in April 2021, Iran's MV Saviz, which has been anchored for years and is thought to be a base for Revolutionary Guards, was attacked. Israel did not deny it had a hand in attacking MV Saviz back in April, but its defense minister, Benny Gantz, offered a statement. “Israel must continue to defend itself,” Gantz told journalists. “Any place we find an operational challenge and necessity, we will continue to act.”
The shadow war between Israel and Iran has been escalating for years, punctuated by attacks on Iranian ships, airstrikes on Iranian positions in Syria, and sabotages on Iran's nuclear program, according to a report by the Associated Press.
Meanwhile, another massive fire broke out at one of Iran's oil refineries on the following day. It was also unclear what caused the fire, and the state authorities have yet to offer an official explanation. The oil refinery was serving Iran's capital, Tehran.