US blames Iran for attack on oil tankers, Tehran calls accusation alarming
Washington released a video that it said showed Iran’s Revolutionary Guards were behind Thursday’s attacks on the Norwegian-owned Front Altair and the Japanese-owned Kokuka Courageous near the Strait of Hormuz shipping chokepoint.
A Dutch firm said it had been appointed to salvage the ships in the Gulf of Oman on Friday, after the attacks that caused a spike in oil prices. [O/R]
About a fifth of the oil consumed globally passes through the Strait of Hormuz, shipped from Gulf energy producers, including Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest crude exporter.
The U.S. military said black-and-white footage filmed from a U.S. aircraft showed Guards on one of their patrol boats drawing up to Kokuka Courageous, after blasts struck both vessels, and removing an unexploded limpet mine from its hull.
“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,” U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told reporters.
He said the assessment was based on intelligence, the weapons used, expertise required and similar recent attacks.
Washington has also blamed Iran or its proxies for attacks on May 12 that crippled four oil tankers in the same area. In addition, it said Tehran was behind May 14 drone strikes on two Saudi oil-pumping stations. Tehran has denied all the charges.
“These accusations are alarming,” Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said, adding that blaming Iran for Thursday’s attacks was “convenient” for U.S. officials.
Tehran has said the United States and its regional allies, such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, were “warmongering” by making accusations against Iran.
The cause of Thursday’s blasts remains unclear. An initial report that Kokuka Courageous, which was being towed to a UAE port on Friday, had been struck by torpedo was dismissed by a source familiar the issue. The owner of the tanker, which carried methanol, later said it was hit by two “flying objects”.
A source has said a magnetic mine could have caused the explosion on Front Altair, which had a cargo of naphtha. Its owner said on Friday the fire erupted was put out. The blaze that sent smoke towering into the air charred the ship’s hull.