US blames Iran | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, June 15, 2019 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, June 15, 2019

Gulf of Oman Oil Tanker Attacks

US blames Iran

Tehran calls accusation alarming; EU, China call for restraint from all sides

Iran said yesterday it was alarming and wrong of the United States to blame Tehran for attacks on two oil tankers at the entrance to the Gulf, after an incident that has raised concerns about a new confrontation in the vital oil shipping route.

Washington released a video that it said showed Iran’s Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) were behind Thursday’s attacks on the Norwegian-owned Front Altair and the Japanese-owned Kokuka Courageous near the Strait of Hormuz shipping chokepoint.

President Donald Trump yesterday accused Iran of executing twin tanker attacks, saying the incident had Iran “written all over it.”

“Iran did do it,” Trump said in an interview on “Fox and Friends”.

“You know they did it because you saw the boat,” Trump said. “I guess one of the mines didn’t explode and it’s probably got essentially Iran written all over it.”

“You saw the boat at night, successfully trying to take the mine off -- and that was exposed.”

Russia warned yesterday against jumping to hasty conclusions over the attacks on two oil tankers.

A Dutch firm said it had been appointed to salvage the ships in the Gulf of Oman yesterday, after the attacks that caused a spike in oil prices.

About a fifth of the oil consumed globally passes through the Strait of Hormuz, shipped from Gulf energy producers, including Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest crude exporter.

The US military said black-and-white footage filmed from a US aircraft showed Guards on one of their patrol boats drawing up to Kokuka Courageous, after blasts struck both vessels, and removing an unexploded limpet mine from its hull.

“It is the assessment of the United States government that the Islamic Republic of Iran is responsible for the attacks that occurred in the Gulf of Oman,” US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told reporters.

He said the assessment was based on intelligence, the weapons used, expertise required and similar recent attacks, reported Reuters.

Washington has also blamed Iran or its proxies for attacks on May 12 that crippled four oil tankers in the same area. In addition, it said Tehran was behind May 14 drone strikes on two Saudi oil-pumping stations. Tehran has denied all the charges.

“These accusations are alarming,” Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said, adding that blaming Iran for Thursday’s attacks was “convenient” for US officials.

Tehran has said the United States and its regional allies, such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, were “warmongering” by making accusations against Iran.

‘UNWISE ESCALATION’

The cause of Thursday’s blasts remains unclear. An initial report that Kokuka Courageous, which was being towed to a UAE port yesterday, had been struck by torpedo was dismissed by a source familiar the issue. The owner of the tanker, which carried methanol, later said it was hit by two “flying objects”.

A source has said a magnetic mine could have caused the explosion on Front Altair, which had a cargo of naphtha. Its owner said yesterday the fire erupted was put out. The blaze that sent smoke towering into the air charred the ship’s hull.

Iranian TV showed 23 crew in Iran believed to be from Front Altair yesterday, and said experts would assess whether they could return to the ship. The crew from Kokuka Courageous were picked up and handed to a US Navy ship on Thursday.

US and European security officials, as well as regional analysts, have cautioned against jumping to conclusions, leaving open the possibility that Iranian proxies, or someone else entirely, might have been responsible for Thursday’s attacks.

Britain said it took the matter “extremely seriously” and, if Iran was involved, “it is a deeply unwise escalation.”

Iranian-US tensions began ratcheting up after US President Donald Trump pulled out of a deal last year between Iran and global powers that aimed to curb Tehran’s nuclear ambitions in exchange for relief from international sanctions.

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