Tue, 15 Oct 2019

U.S. President Donald Trump has accused Iran of carrying out the June 13 attacks against two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman.

Trump made the accusation in an interview with Fox News on June 14, adding that the United States would not allow Iranian activity to close international shipping through the strategic Strait of Hormuz nearby.

Trump's remarks came a day after U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the U.S. government had assessed that 'Iran is responsible' for the attacks on the Norwegian and Japanese oil tankers.

The U.S. military on June 13 also released video showing what it said was a crew from an Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) patrol boat removing what appeared to be an unexploded mine from the side of one of the ships after the attack.

'At 4:10 p.m. local time, an IRGC Gashti Class patrol boat approached the M/T Kokuka Courageous and was observed and recorded removing the unexploded limpet mine from the M/T Kokuka Courageous,' Navy Captain Bill Urban, a Central Command spokesman, said in a statement.

Officials told CNN the Pentagon believes it was an attempt by Iranian forces to retrieve evidence of their involvement.

'Iran did do it, and you know they did it because you saw the boat,' Trump said on June 14. 'I guess one of the mines didn't explode and it's probably got essentially 'Iran' written all over it. And you saw the boat at night trying to take the mine off and [it] successfully took the mine off the boat, and that was exposed.'

Iran has denied any connection with the attacks.

Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Musavi on June 14 called Washington's allegations 'alarming,' saying that 'accusing Iran for such a suspicious and unfortunate incident is the simplest and the most convenient way for Pompeo and other U.S. officials.'

U.S. acting Ambassador Jonathan Cohen on June 13 called upon on the Security Council to confront the 'clear threat' posed by Tehran in the region.

The attacks 'demonstrate the clear threat that Iran poses to international peace and security,' Cohen told reporters following the closed-door Security Council meeting.

Cohen said that 'no proxy group in the area has the resources or the skill to act with this level of sophistication.'

'Iran, however, has the weapons, the expertise, and the requisite intelligence information to pull this off,' he said.

China on June 14 urged all parties to exercise restraint. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said the United States and Iran should 'avoid further escalation of tensions.'

Geng said a 'war in the [Persian] Gulf region of the Middle East is something that no one wants to see.'

China is the world's largest buyer of Iranian oil and has maintained its support for the Iran nuclear deal.

The latest incident in the region comes a month after attacks on four tankers off the coast of the nearby United Arab Emirates (U.A.E.) increased tensions between Tehran and Washington and U.S. allies in the Persian Gulf.

The U.A.E. said initial findings of its investigation pointed to the likelihood that a 'state actor' was behind the bombings, but did not specifically name Iran.

Iran also denied being involved in those attacks, and its foreign minister called the timing of the latest incidents suspicious, given that Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was meeting Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in Tehran.

'Suspicious doesn't begin to describe what likely transpired this morning,' Mohammad Javad Zarif said in a post to Twitter.

With reporting by Reuters, AFP, AP, CBS, BBC, CNN, and The Washington Post

Copyright (c) 2018. RFE/RL, Inc. Republished with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036

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