US Blames Iran For Tanker Attacks, Says Tehran “Trying To Interrupt Flow Of Oil”
Update 7: Ahead of comments to the UN Security Council (which will presumably block any action, with China and Russia backing Iran), unnamed officials are sharing with reporters some of what the US intends to say:
- U.S. OFFICIALS ALLEGE IRANIAN ATTACK MEANT TO ESCALATE CONFLICT
- OFFICIALS: ATTACK SHOWS IRAN UNINTERESTED IN DIALOGUE WITH U.S.
- OFFICIALS: OPTIONS UNDER CONSIDERATION INCLUDE TANKER ESCORTS
Earlier, the Saudis presented a letter to the council claiming that the Iran-backed Houthis had obtained special weapons training and were responsible for Wednesday’s attack on Abha airport.
Pompeo said earlier that the US was in possession of “intelligence” suggesting Iran is behind the attack…but he neglected to offer any poof.
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Update 6: And there it is…
The Trump Administration has officially concluded that Iran is responsible for Thursday’s attacks, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Thursday during a press briefing.
The secretary of state and longtime Iran hawk said Iran’s “unprovoked” attacks are part of a campaign to escalate tension in the region and disrupt the flow of the international oil trade (if we can’t sell our oil, nobody can, would appear to be the logic). He also said that Tehran rejected Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s outreach for diplomacy.
Here’s an abridged version of Pompeo’s statement, courtesy of CNN:
“It is the assessment by 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 at the US State Department.
“This assessment is 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.”
The US is planning to raise concerns about Iran at the UN Security Council, Pompeo said, which is planning to meet to discuss the attacks at 4 pm ET. The US has already presented evidence to the security council that Iran was behind the last round of tanker attacks. The UN has been somewhat more measured in its approach to the attacks. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres denounced Thursday’s incidents at a Security Council meeting, saying: “I strongly condemn any attack against civilian incidents,” before adding that “facts must be established and responsibilities clarified.”
He warned that the world can’t afford “a major confrontation” in the Gulf, Al Jazeera.
Oil spiked on the headline…
…but stocks are sliding.
The International Association of Independent Tanker Owners (better known as Intertanko) has released a statement on Thursday’s attack: The two tankers were hit “at or below the waterline, in close proximity to the engine room while underway.” “These appear to be well planned and coordinated attacks,” Intertanko added. Which would support the thesis that a state actor is responsible.
Earlier, CNN reported that the crew of the USS Bainbridge reported that they saw an unexploded limpet mine on the side of one of the ships attacked in the Gulf of Oman.
A limpet mine is type of a mine that is attached to a ship’s hull using magnets. They were also believed to have been deployed in May during the attacks on four ships off the coast of the UAE.
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Update 5: A spokesman for the Saudi-led coalition supporting Yemen’s government in the country’s civil war has come out and blamed Iran for Thursday’s attack, saying they believe they can connect it to a similar tanker bombing last year in the Red Sea committed by Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi rebels. The spokesman called the attack a “major escalation”, and reiterated in what sounded to us like a thinly veiled threat that Saudi Arabia has the capacity to protect its vital institutions.
You may remember that the Houthis have over the last year repeatedly fired missiles (with mixed success) at Saudi oil fields and even came close to successfully bombing a royal palace.
Earlier, over in the UK, a spokesperson for the government called the attack on civilian oil tankers “completely unacceptable” and said the UK was ready to assist in the rescue effort and investigation.
Meanwhile, senior officials from the US and UAE have attributed the attack to a “state actor,” though they neglected to explicitly name Iran.
All this is happening before the investigation into the attacks has even begun. And BBG’s Javier Blas pointed out that should Iran be found responsible, it would be a strange turn of events since the Front Altair is owned by John Frederiksen, the owner of the Frontline Tanker company, who moved oil for Iran during the “tanker war” with Iraq….
Continue reading at: Zerohedge
Iran FM: “Suspicious Doesn’t Begin To Describe” Attack On Japanese Tanker During Abe’s State Visit
With the words “Gulf of Tonkin” trending on Twitter this morning at a moment that a senior American defense official told CBS News that “it’s highly likely Iran caused these attacks,” it appears the general public is not even close to buying the claim that Iran attacked two tankers near the strategic Strait of Hormuz this morning.
Iranian Foreign Minister Javid Zarif pointed out a crucial obvious factor not likely to make it across the US mainstream airwaves or headlines:
“Suspicious doesn’t begin to describe what likely transpired this morning,” he said.
This especially crucial — according to his comments — given that one of the vessels is a Japanese tanker supposedly “attacked” by Iran in the middle of a visit to Tehran by Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
Japan’s Trade Ministry later confirmed that one of the ships hit Thursday morning was carrying “Japan-related cargo.”
The details of the Japanese tanker are described by the AP as follows:
The Japanese operator of a tanker that was damaged in a suspected attack in the Strait of Hormuz says all of its crewmembers are now safe onboard a U.S. Navy warship.
The chemical tanker Kokuka Courageous, operated by Kokuka Sangyo Co., was apparently attacked as it was passing through the Strait of Hormuz toward Singapore and Thailand destinations to deliver methanol.
Currently Iran is desperately attempting to salvage the 2015 nuclear deal with other world powers at a time its economy is being crushed under US sanctions, and Wednesday’s visit by the Japanese PM appears an attempt to mediate. The tanker incident and emergency nature of what transpired “eclipsed the Abe visit, an unexpected bit of outreach to Iran by someone Trump calls a friend,” as CNN noted.
The Panama-flagged and Japanese-owned Kokuka Courageous was one of the two vessels reportedly attacked, possibly by torpedo fire, mine, or underwater drone, in the Gulf of Oman.
Speaking of CNN, we’ve really entered new territory when even it’s pundits are quickly raising the question of a ‘false flag’ in our midst:
Iran doesn’t appear to have a lot to gain. Say what you like about Tehran’s malicious intent, these incidents heighten the global drumbeat for greater isolation and boosts those who seek to apply military pressure on Iran. Its economy is in a bad condition. Before President Donald Trump pulled the US out of the JCPOA (colloquially known as the Iran nuclear deal), Tehran was at its peak of regional influence. With diminished economic resources, its potency is likely to wane.
The incidents also came in the middle of a visit to Tehran by Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, apparently trying to mediate over the nuclear deal (although Tokyo says he’s not an envoy for Washington). The apparent attacks eclipsed the Abe visit, an unexpected bit of outreach to Iran by someone Trump calls a friend.
And quite surprisingly, more from CNN:
Iran’s chief moderate, Foreign Minister Javid Zarif, was right to point out that “suspicious doesn’t begin to describe what likely transpired this morning.” When one party is so easily blamed, it is likely blameless, or unfathomably stupid.
Meanwhile anonymous US officials are blaming a “state actor” in what is very likely just the beginning of a hail of evidence-free accusations and threats to follow.
And separately, a spokesman for the Saudi-led coalition supporting Yemen’s government in the country’s civil war has come out and blamed Iran for Thursday’s attack, saying they believe they can connect it to a similar tanker bombing last year in the Red Sea committed by Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi rebels.
The spokesman called the attack a “major escalation”, and reiterated in what sounded to us like a thinly veiled threat that Saudi Arabia has the capacity to protect its vital institutions.
It will be interesting to see what Japan officially concludes when it releases further statements and perhaps more details of its findings on the incident. On Wednesday, just before the attack, Japan’s Abe told Rouhani that “no one wants a military clash” while speaking of the US so-called “maximum pressure” campaign and ratcheting tensions with Washington. Abe said at a press conference while standing beside Rouhani: “I decided to visit Iran as part of my efforts to ease tensions.”
PM Abe also called on Tehran’s leaders to play a “constructive role” toward stabilizing the region and pursuing a calming of tensions.
And following this positive meeting with Japan’s head of state that went in Iran’s favor, what did Iran decide to do a mere hours later?… Attack a nearby Japanese tanker of course!
False Flag? Iran Has Little To Gain From Oman Tanker Attacks