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Oil tankers attack: Mike Pompeo blames Iran for 'blatant assault' in Gulf of Oman without providing evidence

Iran describes incidents as 'suspicious'

Andrew Buncombe
Thursday 13 June 2019 15:31 BST
Tanker ablaze in the Gulf of Oman

Secretary of state Mike Pompeo has blamed Iran for a “blatant assault” on oil tankers in Gulf of Oman – a claim he made without providing any evidence.

Two oil tankers were attacked and left adrift in the Gulf of Oman on Thursday morning. The attack drove up oil prices and stoked fears of a new confrontation between Iran and the United States.

“It is the assessment of the US government that Iran is responsible for today’s attacks in the Gulf of Oman,” said the secretary of state.

“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.”

Panama-listed tanker Kokuka Courageous was damaged in a “suspected attack” that breached the hull above the water line, Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement said. The ship was attacked twice in three hours before all the crew were evacuated, the president of Japanese owner Kokuka Sangyo told reporters.

A second ship, the Marshall Islands-flagged Front Altair, was “suspected of being hit by a torpedo” at around 0400 GMT, said Taiwanese refiner CPC Corp, which had chartered the vessel.

Last month, US national security advisor John Bolton said previous attacks on oil tankers off the coast of the United Arab Emirates were the work of “naval mines almost certainly from Iran”.

Mr Bolton also offered no evidence for this claim, which was dismissed by Iran.

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On Thursday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said it was too early to draw any conclusions as to who was behind the attacks because of the lack of information.

“No one knows what is behind it,” he said.

Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif described the incidents as “suspicious” on Twitter, and called for regional dialogue. Tehran has denied responsibility for the May 12 attacks.

The two tankers were attacked in the Gulf of Oman, leaving one ablaze and both adrift, shipping firms said, driving oil prices as much as four per cent higher.

Also on Thursday, Mr Trump said he appreciated the recent visit by Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe to Iran to meet leaders, but that he believed it is “too soon to even think about” the United States making a deal with Tehran.

“They are not ready, and neither are we,” Mr Trump said in a tweet.

After Mr Trump withdrew the US from the multi-national Iran Nuclear Deal in May 2018, the US launched an offensive of speeches and online communications meant to foment unrest and help pressure Iran’s leaders, Reuters reported last year.

The plan, designed to ensure Iran does not restart a nuclear weapons programme, involves painting Iranian leaders in a harsh light, “at times using information that is exaggerated or contradicts other official pronouncements”, the news agency said.

Additional reporting by Reuters

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