Red Alert : USA: Pompeo Claims Iran behind Gulf of Oman Oil Tankers Attack

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo accused Iran of being responsible for the attacks on two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman, speaking to journalists in Washington DC on Thursday.

Pompeo said that the assessment was based on “intelligence, the weapons used, the level of expertise needed to execute the operation, recent similar Iranian attacks on shipping, and the fact that no proxy group operating in the area has the resources and proficiency to act with such a high degree of sophistication.”

“This is only the latest in a series of attacks instigated by the Islamic Republic of Iran and its surrogates against American and allied interests,” Pompeo added. Iran’s FM Mohammad Javad Zarif posted in English on his Twitter account: “Reported attacks on Japan-related tankers occurred while PM AbeShinzo was meeting with Ayatollah khamenei_ir for extensive and friendly talks. Suspicious doesn’t begin to describe what likely transpired this morning. Iran’s proposed Regional Dialogue Forum is imperative.” Last month, the US accused Iran of sabotaging four vessels near the Emirati port of Fujairah using naval mines, a claim which Iran denied.

High Alert — U.S. blames Iran After Suspected Attacks on Mideast Oil Tankers

Two oil tankers near the strategically important Strait of Hormuz were damaged Thursday. After the U.S. Navy rushed to assist evacuating sailors, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo blamed Iran, calling the suspected attacks a “clear threat to international peace and security.” They come amid heightened tensions with Iran and an increased U.S. military presence in the Mideast. Nick Schifrin reports.

Also on Thursday night, the United States military released two photographs of the ship’s hull, showing damage and what it said was likely the unexploded mine.

“Taken as a whole, these unprovoked attacks present a clear threat to international peace and security,” Mr. Pompeo told a news conference in Washington.

The Kokuka Courageous was about 20 miles off the Iranian coast when it transmitted an emergency call for help after an initial explosion. When the crew surveyed the damage from the first explosion, they saw a second unexploded mine attached to the hull and evacuated the ship, according to the American officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive intelligence matter.


What do we know about the explosions?

The Norwegian Maritime Authority said earlier on Thursday that the Front Altair had been “attacked”, and that there were three blasts on board.

Wu I-fang, a spokesman for Taiwan’s CPC Corp oil refiner, which chartered the Front Altair, said it was carrying 75,000 tonnes of naphtha and was “suspected of being hit by a torpedo”, although this has not been confirmed.

Other unverified reports suggested a mine attack.

Map showing the location of the two vessels as of 08:00 GMT
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The ship’s owner, Frontline, said the vessel was on fire – but denied reports in Iranian media that it had sunk.

The operator of the Kokuka Courageous, BSM Ship Management, said its crew abandoned ship and were rescued by a passing vessel.

Both Iran and the US have released pictures showing rescued crew members on board their vessels.

The Kokuka Courageous and the Front AltairImage copyrightFREDERICK A TERRY/ARTJOM LOFITSKI
Image captionThe 21 crew on the Kokuka Courageous (L) and 23 on the Front Altair have been rescued

Why are US-Iran tensions so high?

In 2018, the US pulled out of the landmark nuclear deal reached in 2015 that was aimed at curbing Iran’s nuclear activities.

The move was strongly criticised by a number of countries, including America’s closest allies.

In May, President Donald Trump tightened US sanctions on Iran – mainly targeting its oil sector.

Iran then announced it was suspending some commitments under the nuclear deal.

In recent months the US has strengthened its forces in the Gulf – saying there was a danger of Iranian attacks.

It has sent an aircraft carrier strike group and B-52 bombers to the region.

In response, Iran has accused the US of aggressive behaviour.

Those tensions rose markedly after the 12 May limpet mine attacks in the UAE.

The US said that actor was Iran, an accusation Tehran has denied.

What is the US intelligence?

It is a pretty damning verdict from Mr Pompeo but as yet little detail has been given as to the exact nature of the intelligence and the extent to which a forensic analysis of the damage to the two tankers is backed up by other information – satellite or other tracking of the movements of any other vessels involved and so on.

Some may argue that there is a danger of a rush to judgement. And it is clear that if the US intends a response, especially a military one, then many countries – even friendly governments – will want to have chapter and verse on exactly what the US intelligence amounts to.

Iran, for its part, was quick to deny any involvement in the incidents. Indeed it sought to deflect blame by arguing in effect that it was being framed. “Somebody,” an Iranian official asserted, “is trying to destabilise relations between Iran and the international community.”

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How has the world reacted?

UN Secretary General António Guterres condemned Thursday’s blasts.

He told the Security Council that the world cannot afford “a major confrontation in the Gulf region”.

The UK’s foreign secretary said it would conduct its own assessment, but the “starting point is obviously to believe our US allies”.

Meanwhile, the EU called for “maximum restraint”, while Russia said no-one should jump to conclusions or use the incident to put pressure on Iran, a Russian ally.

The incident is expected to be discussed at a closed-door meeting of the UN Security Council later on Thursday.

Paolo d’Amico, chairman of the tanker association, Intertanko, said the two vessels had been attacked, and expressed concern about dangers to other crews.

“If the waters are becoming unsafe, the [oil] supply to the entire Western world could be at risk,” he said.




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