U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo blamed Iran on Thursday for an attack on two petrochemical tankers in the Gulf of Oman, raising fears of a wider conflict in the region.
“It is the assessment of the United States government that the Islamic Republic of Iran was responsible for the attacks that occurred in the Gulf of Oman today,” Pompeo said at a news conference 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.”
The attack came as Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was concluding meetings with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. Iran would like Japan to ignore U.S. sanctions and resume buying its oil, while Abe tried to pave the way for talks between the U.S. and Iran.
Tensions between the U.S. government and Iran have escalated dramatically since Donald Trump became president and withdrew from a nuclear deal with Tehran reached under the Obama administration.
As Pompeo pointed to Iran for Thursday’s attacks on the two ships, Trump threw cold water on the idea that his administration might be ready to reenter negotiations.
While I very much appreciate P.M. Abe going to Iran to meet with Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, I personally feel that it is too soon to even think about making a deal. They are not ready, and neither are we!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 13, 2019
One of the ships attacked was Japanese-owned, while the other sails under a Norwegian flag. Both were en route to Japan. The crews were believed to have evacuated the stricken vessels safely.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif denied that the government of Iran had anything to do with the attacks, and suggested that they were designed to provide a pretext for war.
“Suspicious doesn’t begin to describe what likely transpired this morning,” Zarif wrote on Twitter.
Pompeo portrayed the Thursday’s attack as part of pattern in which “Iran and its proxies” have worked “against American and allied interests.”
“Taken as a whole, these unprovoked attacks present a clear threat to international peace and security,” Pompeo said.
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