DailyMail.com, by Tim Stickings and Chris Dyer: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says the U.S. believes Iran was responsible for attacks that damaged two oil tankers near the Persian Gulf. American forces found an unexploded mine on one of the damaged vessels.
A fireball erupted on the Norwegian-owned MT Front Altair after a suspected torpedo attack caused three explosions, forcing the crew to abandon ship.
Sailors on the Japanese-owned Kokuka Courageous also had to flee after it was hit by another explosion, in a pair of apparent attacks today which have left the Middle East on high alert.
‘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 at the 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.’
Britain has urged ‘extreme caution’ amid spiraling tensions in the region, weeks after Saudi tankers were attacked in a mysterious act of sabotage off the UAE coast which Washington believes was the work of Iran.
Warning that the Gulf’s waters are ‘becoming unsafe’, tanker industry chief Paolo d’Amico said that ‘the oil supply to the entire Western world could be at risk’ – as 30 per cent of the world’s crude oil passes through the area.
Tehran has said it is ‘suspicious’ about the timing of the explosions during a visit by Japan’s leader Shinzo Abe but Washington has again pointed the finger at Iran.
In the aftermath of the attacks, U.S. authorities said Iran was ‘highly likely’ to have caused the explosions – amid fears that repeated attacks on ships could put the West’s oil supply under threat.
Pompeo later said at a news conference in Washington that the attacks on the ships are part of a ‘campaign’ of ‘escalating tension’ by Iran and a threat to international peace and security.
He said the United States will defend its forces and interests in the region but gave no specifics about any plans and he took no questions from the media.
“And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars. . . . For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.” Matthew 24:6, 7.