U.S. blames Iran for attacks on 2 tankers near Persian Gulf

Clay Curtis
June 15, 2019

According to ANI news reports, Trump has also praised Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who has offered to mediate a deal between the United States and Iran.

Last month, Jeremy Hunt, the British foreign secretary, said, "We are very anxious about the risk of a conflict happening by accident with an escalation that is unintended on either side".

According to the latest World Bank update issued in April, Iran's economy is expected to remain riddled by slow growth and high unemployment for at least the next 12 months "as oil output continues to decline along with other mounting external economic challenges". The two ships that were struck Thursday appeared to have been more seriously damaged than those hit in May.

"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 today", Pompeo told reporters. Now, Iran is threatening to resume enriching uranium closer to weapons-grade levels if European nations don't offer it new terms to the deal by July 7. The US Navy said it was providing assistance.

Thursday's maritime alert comes after what the U.S. has described as Iranian attacks on four oil tankers nearby, off the coast of the UAE.

Saudi Arabia and its regime media went into overdrive amplifying the Trump administration's accusations against Iran. Some of it leaves the region through pipelines, but a significant portion is carried by ships that must pass through the Strait of Hormuz and the Gulf of Oman. Oil prices rose more than 3% on world markets in the hours after the attacks Thursday.

"We have people of every nationality and vessels of every flat transiting that crucial sea lane every day", Paolo d'Amico, the chairman of the International Association of Independent Tanker Owners, said in a statement.

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

Abe arrived in Iran on Wednesday with a plan to help ease tensions between Tehran and Washington.

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Bob McNally, president of the USA consultancy Rapidan Energy Group, said "we see this as Iran trying to get negotiating leverage it doesn't have", and described the attacks as "upping the ante but not going all in". "I don't regard Trump as deserving any exchange of messages", Khamenei reportedly told Abe.

Zarif made a comment in a Tweet on Thursday saying: "Suspicious doesn't begin to describe what likely transpired this morning" without elaborating.

Among U.S. military and intelligence officials in the Persian Gulf region, suspicion immediately fell on possible Iranian complicity.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told a meeting of the U.N. Security Council on cooperation between the United Nations and the League of Arab States: "Facts must be established and responsibilities clarified".

"I think the threat is imminent", McKenzie told NBC News, without offering specific evidence or other details. The firm that chartered the Kokuka Courageous tanker said it was hit by a suspected torpedo, but a person with knowledge of the matter said torpedoes were not used. Yuube said that the incident happened off the Emirati port of Fujairah, near the Strait of Hormuz. Japanese company Kokuka Sangyo Ltd later said it was the owner of the ship.

Both tankers were evacuated immediately after the incident and the crew are safe, the sources said. The crew, all Filipinos, "kept trying to avoid the attacks, but again received an attack three hours later".

Iranian state media said Iran had rescued the crew members and they had been taken to the port of Jask.

In London, British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said the United Kingdom was taking the matter "extremely seriously" and that if Iran was involved, "it is a deeply unwise escalation which poses a real danger to the prospects of peace and stability in the region". "The cargo of methanol is intact".

The Bahrain-based U.S. Navy Fifth Fleet said it had assisted the two tankers after receiving distress calls. The American destroyer USS Bainbridge was sent to assist, he said.

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