Mystery Missile Attack off the Saudi Coast

(Bloomberg) — Want to receive this post in your inbox every day? Sign up for the Balance of Power newsletter, and follow Bloomberg Politics on Twitter and Facebook for more.

An Iranian oil tanker slammed by rockets in the Red Sea, damaged and unassisted in its distress.The tanker is leaking oil — it can carry 1 million barrels of crude — so poses an immediate environmental risk and a danger to shipping in a busy waterway. Beyond that, however, it’s a geopolitical whodunit with big implications for an already febrile region.

The unexplained attack adds to tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia over drone and missile strikes last month on Saudi oil facilities that briefly cut global supplies by 5%, the worst sudden disruption in history. The Saudis blamed Iran for that attack, with Tehran, in turn, pointing the finger at Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen.

A spokesman for the National Iranian Tanker Company initially said the missiles involved in today’s strike probably came from the direction of Saudi Arabia. NITC later withdrew that claim in a statement.It’s unclear where else the missiles would have originated. Perhaps the NITC spokesman jumped the gun in speaking publicly.Even if Iran doesn’t want to rush to point the finger at Riyadh, this attack underscores how vulnerable energy supplies in the region remain. That’s bad news for oil, the global economy and broader political stability.

Global Headlines

Just in: The Nobel Peace Prize went to Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed for his work to end nearly two decades of conflict with neighboring Eritrea, easing tensions in the Horn of Africa.

In hot water | President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani is being scrutinized by federal investigators for his financial dealings following the indictment of two of his associates for violating campaign finance laws, Greg Farrell and Chris Strohm report. Giuliani, who was already at the center of House Democrats’ impeachment inquiry, now finds himself drawn into an expanding criminal probe run by his old office into illegal campaign contributions.

Joe Biden has a warning for his Democratic rivals as they prepare for the fourth televised debate next week: Stay away from the issue of Ukraine and his son Hunter.

Happening today: Former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, is scheduled to testify behind closed doors, and Speaker Nancy Pelosi plans a conference call to chart House Democrats’ next steps in the impeachment inquiry.

Syrian gains | There are plenty of losers from President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s military incursion into Syria — the Kurds, Turkish-EU relations and the U.S.’s reputation for dependability. But there’s one potential winner: Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. As Glen Carey reports, the actions of Washington and Ankara might help Assad regain his hold over most of pre-war Syria.

Pathway to deal | Brexit negotiations turned positive after British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Irish leader Leo Varadkar held a “constructive” face-to-face meeting. They agreed they could see a “pathway” to reaching a deal and urged negotiators to resume intensive talks in Brussels with three weeks left before the exit day deadline. The pound surged on the news, with Thursday’s leap at one point the biggest since early 2017.

Promising signs | Trump said the first day of high-level trade negotiations between the U.S. and China went “very well” and that he plans to meet with the top Chinese negotiator today. The U.S. and China have both signaled willingness to work toward a partial deal, and leave the thornier issues for later discussions. However, Trump repeated yesterday that he would prefer a complete agreement.

Subscribe to Bloomberg’s Terms of Trade newsletter to receive all the big developments in your inbox each weekday.

Brazil support | Trump said yesterday he supports Brazil’s entry into the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, despite a State Department letter in August that showed the U.S. withholding support for the country’s current bid. Posting on Twitter, the president said he will back Brazil’s candidacy and called a report about the letter published by Bloomberg News yesterday “fake news.”

What to Watch

Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protesters are debating whether radical tactics and widespread vandalism might be alienating moderate supporters in the financial hub and abroad. Trump will hold a rally in Louisiana, one day before a primary election in the only Deep South state with a Democratic governor. Click here for more on why such events are drawing less air time. Former South African President Jacob Zuma lost a court bid today to have a graft case against him that dates back to the 199Os scrapped, clearing the way for his trial to begin on Oct. 15.

Pop quiz, readers (no cheating!). Who did President Trump ask two years ago to help persuade the Justice Department to drop a criminal case against Iranian-Turkish gold trader Reza Zarrab? Send us your guesses and tell us how we’re doing or what we’re missing at

And finally … The United Arab Emirates is lobbying in Washington to try to hobble Al-Jazeera, one of the Arab world’s most prominent TV networks. The broadcaster is in the crosshairs amid a regional power struggle pitting Qatar, where it’s based, against Saudi Arabia, the U.A.E. and their allies. The goal is to convince regulators to force Al-Jazeera to register as a foreign agent with the Justice Department, a designation that would in effect brand it as a government propagandist akin to Russia Today and risk its press credentials


–With assistance from Kathleen Hunter, Iain Marlow and Tim Ross.

To contact the author of this story: Rosalind Mathieson in London at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Alan Crawford at, Karl Maier” data-reactid=”35″>For more articles like this, please visit us at

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.